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Breast Examination: Why It’s More Important Than You Think

Breast cancer knows neither age, gender nor race. In other words, it does not discriminate. In fact, it tops the list as the most common cancer among women all around the world – that even an A-list celebrity like Olivia Newton-John, an iconic star of the classic movie-musical ‘Grease’ and four-time Grammy-winner succumbed to it recently.

In Malaysia, 1 in 19 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Although this is of high prevalence, there is still hope in battling against breast cancer. While breast examinations are not a sure solution for you to become breast cancer-free, it’s still a fundamental starting point in the journey of fighting against breast cancer.

Does breast examination really matter?

By having regular breast examinations, you can increase your chances of detecting and treating breast cancer early, i.e., before it spreads and worsens over time.

Survival rates for early stages of breast cancer are higher compared to that of its later stages. At an early stage, breast cancer involves a relatively small breast tumour that consists of a mass of cancerous cells. If no action is taken, the abnormal cancer cells may break away and travel through the blood or lymph system, spread, and affect other parts of the body as well. In short, it will metastasize.

Needless to say, early detection is an important factor to surviving breast cancer, and the key to early detection is via a routine self-breast examination.

Wondering how? Scroll further down to find out!

What are the steps to breast self-examination?

Breast self-exams include a few simple steps and would not take much of your time (but wait a minute…it’s not as simple as simply massaging and pressing your breast without following certain motions, okurrr? *cue Cardi B). Though not complicated, establishing a routine in performing these steps can help you take note of any abnormal changes in your breasts as soon as possible. Women are encouraged to do breast self-exams once a month or about a week after every period (day 5 – 7), when the breasts are least likely to be swollen.

There are different ways in which you could manually carry out the steps or techniques of breast self-examination:

  • While standing up
  • While sitting
  • While lying on bed

When examining your breasts, be sure to apply these tips and motions (look and feel):

  • Undress from waist up and position yourself in front of mirror to look at the breast. Identify any changes in the breasts by…
  1. Put your arms by your side
  2. Put your hands on your hips and tighten up your chest muscle
  3. Raise your arms high above your head and look in the mirror
  • To feel for any abnormalities in your breasts, you can do so by…
  1. Using three fingertips to feel each quarter of the breast, while the other arm is above your head
  2. Do not forget to feel the area underneath the nipple and armpit

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

While doing your breast self-exam, zero in on any changes in the appearance and feel of the breasts as well as nipples. To be on the safe side, you should contact your doctor when you notice changes that may not have been there before:

  • Nipple retraction
  • Lump(s) in the breast or underarm areas
  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Nipple discharge
  • Itch & rash on nipple
  • Skin sore or redness on the breast

Breast cancer can present in a wide variety of ways. Hence, a complete medical screening of the breast or a mammogram is important, as it can detect visible and invisible signs of breast cancer. For women who persistently present with any of the above abnormalities, undergoing an ultrasound or a mammogram is highly recommended to determine if it is benign or malignant.

Give your breasts some TLC today! Schedule a mammogram now or as recommended by your doctor to keep abreast of your breast health .

Information By:

beacon-hospital-dr-goh-kee-sanDatuk Dr Devanand Mangharam

Consultant Breast & Endocrine Surgeon

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