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Breast Cancer: Understanding the importance of regular self-examinations
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Breast Cancer: Understanding the importance of regular self-examinations

With 2.3 million women being diagnosed every year, breast cancer has been listed as the 2nd leading cause of mortality in women. The cancer originates from the cells found in any part of the breast, including the lobules and areola. Just like any other cancer, early diagnosis plays a crucial role in effectively managing breast cancer. For this, it is vital to watch out for the symptoms on a regular basis. These can be easily noticed during a self-examination. However, many women do not understand how important it is to examine their breasts regularly. In this blog, we have elaborated on the importance of the same with the help of experts specialising in breast cancer treatment in Gurugram.

Breast Cancer: Early diagnosis for effective management

If you are a woman, you cannot simply overlook the risks of breast cancer. The life-threatening malignancy claims countless lives every year. Although there have been tremendous advancements in the diagnosis and treatment modalities available, it still continues to be the 2nd leading cause of death in women across the globe.

Breast cancer results from abnormal mutations in the cells' DNA within the breast. These changes can be hereditary or acquired due to varied factors, which are mostly beyond one's control. Breast cancer is treatable, provided the patient is diagnosed at an early stage when the malignancy is still localised.

Breast self-examination and their importance

Breast self-examination is a vital screening modality that does not require fancy equipment or setting. You can perform it by yourself, in the comfort of your home. During the examination, you need to physically check different areas of the breast with your hands and fingers to feel for any evident masses, lumps or abnormalities. When combined with regular mammography and clinical checkups, breast self-examination can help early detection of breast cancer. Experts specialising in cancer treatment in India suggest that self-examination is one of the most convenient, economical and easiest screening modalities that every woman should add to her monthly self-care routine

Things to remember before the examination

The examination is done with bare hands, and you do not require any equipment or tool. The only thing that you need is a wall-mounted or standing mirror. You can do it in your bathroom or bedroom at your convenience. You also need to make sure that the room is well-lit so that you can see everything clearly.

Also, it is essential to note that hormonal changes due to menstruation can lead to temporary changes in the breast tissue. You need to choose that time of your cycle when your breasts are not very tender, usually a week following the last day of your period.

How to examine yourself

  • First of all, you need to remove any piece of cloth or garment covering your upper body. This includes bras as well.
  • Face towards the mirror, ensuring your upper body is reflected correctly. Place your hands on your hips and stand straight.
  • Start with the visual examination of the breast and look out for any noticeable change in the shape and size. Generally, one breast tends to be slightly bigger than the other. However, if you feel that there is a significant difference between the size of the two breasts, make a note of it.
  • Now, look for other changes like dimpling in the skin, unusual rashes, peeling of skin near the areola, asymmetric nipple distribution, nipple inversion or swelling.
  • You may need to change your position as the breasts are to be examined from 3 different angles. Once all the steps mentioned above are done, you need to repeat the same with your arms raised above your head, slightly bending forward, and then again with your arms on your side. The three different positions help flex the muscles in your chest, making it easier to figure out any visible abnormality.
  • Not only the position, but you also need to change the profiles. These include direct view, right profile and left profile.
  • The visual examination is followed by a physical examination. You need to lie down on the bed and roll to your left side, resting the palm of your right hand on the forehand. This is done while examining the right breast. In order to examine the left one, you need to roll on the right side and place the palm of the left hand on your forehead.
  • Now move your middle finger in circles of varying sizes, and while applying different pressures, try to feel the different layers of tissue in the breasts, one by one.
  • Press the medial half of the breast, right from the armpit to the nipple and gently press the vertical half right from the clavicle bone to the bra line. While moving your fingers, make sure that the skin contact is not lost at any point.
  • In order to examine the lower side of the breast, you will need to lie down on your back and place your palm on your forehead, as you did earlier, for each breast. Now examine the breasts in the same manner.

In case you detect any abnormality or lump, you should consult top cancer doctor in Gurugram to get yourself evaluated. Your vigilance and awareness can help save your life.

Dr. Archit Pandit, Director & Head of the Department

Surgical Oncology

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