Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among South African women and around 70% of cancers in the breast are discovered by self examinations. This is why it is vital for women to know how to perform self-examinations properly and to know the early warning signs of breast cancer. Early detection is the key for a greater chance of survival.
Taking care of your breasts:
- Perform a breast examination every month on yourself. This will only take 10 minutes and could save your life.
- If you are older than 40 or fall in a high risk category, it is advisable to have a mammogram every year. A mammogram is an x-ray which can detect breast cancer before any visual signs appear.
Early Warning Signs:
What to do if you discover a change in your breasts:
Do something about it.
If you notice any change, don’t panic. Some abnormalities are not necessarily cancerous and could be benign, but any change should be checked by a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Cancer of the breast is a curable disease if detected and treated early. This is why early detection is the greatest chance of increasing survival.
Why should I examine my breasts?
It could save your life and dramatically increase chances of survival through early detection.
When should I perform an examination?
One week after your period. If you no longer menstruate, perform an examination once a month, preferably on the same day to maintain consistency.
What do I look out for?
Any change in the breast or nipple. See the picture above for possible changes to look out for. Get to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts in order to quickly spot any changes.
How do I examine my breasts properly?
1. Visual Examination
Stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your sides (See image 1. above) and look carefully at your breasts for any visual changes.
- Visible lumps of any size in the breast or armpit.
- A puckering, dimpling or tightening of the skin over the breast area.
- An unusual increase in the size of the breast.
- Enlargement of the glands.
- Orange peel appearance of the skin around the nipple.
- Unusual swelling in the armpit.
- One breast lower than the other or nipples at different levels.
- Inversion or retraction of the nipple.
- Enlarged glands under the arms and shoulder area.
- Discharge from the nipples.
2. Physical Examination
Stand with one hand behind your head and using the flat part of your fingertips, gently examine your breasts in circular motion.
- (See image 2. above) Begin at point A and in a circular motion, follow the arrows to point B.
- Check the armpit for any changes.
- Examine both breasts in this manner. This can also be done in the shower.
The physical examination can also be done whilst laying down. To do this just simply put one arm behind your head (See image 3. above) and use your opposite hand to examine the breast using the same method.