The importance of a breast exam.
The incidence of breast cancer in the western societies is steadily rising.
Early detection of breast cancer decreases the mortality rate in women, the cure rate is higher and therapy and treatment improved significantly.
Self examination of the breast should be done every month just after your period from the age of 20 years.
A clinical examination of the breast by a doctor or professional nurse every three years between the ages 20 and 30. It should be clinically examined every year for women over 40.
A mammogram every second year after the age of 40 and every year after the age of 50. It is a special type of x-ray of the breasts.
The mammogram has 3 indications:
- To show the features of the lump if a lump is felt.
- If there is any other breast lumps the patient or doctor cannot feel.
- To detect early breast cancer.
- Breast cancer usually presents as a lump in the breast. There is a 1 in 10 chance that lumps could be cancer. 9 out of 10 times the lumps are benign (not cancer).
When should you examine your breast?
- It is recommended that you examine your breast about 10 days after your period stopped.
- If you had your menopause examine your breasts every first weekend of every month
How to examine your breasts
Do the exam in front of a mirror just before you take a bath. The mirror must be large enough to show your upper body and head. You can use a skin oil as an aid.
Step 1 : Stand in front of the mirror and look at your breasts. Lift your arms above your head and look at your breasts in this stretched position. See if there are any differences between the two sides of the breasts. Check if there are any nipple changes or visible lumps.
Step 2 : Hold your fingers together and keep the hand flat on the breast. Use your left hand to examine the right breast and vice versa, to feel for any lumps or abnormalities.
What to look for?
- A lump – may be seen in the mirror or felt during the breast exam.
- A puckering – when the overlaying skin is pulled inwards
- A dimpling – when the ligaments which supports the breast is lumpy.
Remember most lumps are benign or innocent. If you find a lump in your breast, do not be afraid to go to your doctor.