The first step to staying on top of your breast health is knowing what your normal breast looks and feels like. Every woman has a unique and individual-specific breast. There is not a uniform type of breast and that’s why it is important to know your breast and report anything out of the ordinary and for immediate medical investigation.
Cancer is a complicated disease that could manifest with a ton of symptoms, which is also apparent in other health problems. Worthy of note, it that not all lumps or breast changes are cancerous, but it is imperative to see a doctor, as that is the only way to find out exactly what it is, right?
I found a lump in my breast in the shower. I was ill-advised to brush it aside like it was nothing, but I elected to see my doctor nonetheless. Not every woman will have breast cancer, but every woman must know how to do a self-breast exam. Knowledge doesn’t hurt, it empowers!
Breast Cancer Symptoms:
Breast cancer symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:
- Lump: These could be found in the breast or the armpit. It is worthy of note, that not all lumps are cancerous, but all lumps should be medically investigated.
- Inverted Nipples: An inverted nipple is when the nipple is pulled inward, rather than pointing outwards.
- Skin Dimpling/Thickening: This means the skin has a texture similar to an orange peel.
- Change in size of the breast: There may be a fluctuation in the size of a woman’s breast due to hormone, injury or a symptom of a more serious illness.
- Nipple discharge: All nipple discharge that occurs in a woman who is not pregnant should be evaluated by a doctor.
This is a self-check done to look for changes and abnormalities in the breast. There are different ways of having a self-check breast examination. I found the lump in my breast and immediately paid my doctor a visit.
Self-exam lying down:
- Lie down face up and place a small pillow or rolled-up towel/blanket to gain some elevation under your right shoulder. Put your right arm behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast with fingers together and flat. Using your body lotion or oils may help to make this easier.
- When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
- Apply various levels of pressure from firm to light while moving in a circular motion. From your armpit, slide down in circular motion to the outer part of your breast and underneath your breast.
- In a well-lit room, get undressed from the waist up and stand in front of a mirror with arms relaxed at your sides. Focus on your breast, and check for any changes in size or shape. Look for discolorations, sores or dimpling.
- Check your nipples. My nipples were inverted when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Check the nipple for discharge by placing your thumb and index finger on the skin of the nipple and pushing outwards.
- Raise your hand high over your head and look for any changes in contour, any possible swelling, or dimpling of the skin.
In the shower:
- Place left hand on hips and reach across your left armpit with your right hand.
- In a circular motion, moving from the outside to the center, feel for any lumps in the armpit.
- Check for lumps above and below your collarbone. The reason this is done in the shower is that people find that slippery soap and water could aid the process.
- With soapy hands, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue. Use the flat part of your fingers from the other hand to press gently into the breast. Follow an up-and-down pattern, making sure the entire breast is covered. Repeat on the other side.
What to do if you notice any breast changes:
It is very important not to panic if you find a lump in your breast. Some lumps are benign and not cancerous. It is unable to tell by face value and that is why it is of utmost importance to contact your health provider immediately.
“Know your breast enough to easily notice any changes”.