Breast cancer ranks as the number one cancer among Indian women and that accounts for 27% of all cancers affecting females in our country. According to Indian Council of Medical Research, over 8.8 lac deaths are estimated by 2020 due to the disease.
One of the saddest realities in India is that though there is an increased awareness about breast cancer, there has been no significant improvement in the number of women volunteering to get checked for it.
The reasons are many; some of them include misconceptions about mammography, limited digital media access to women in rural-urban areas, lack of motivation and fear of the unknown. But little do women know is that screening improves the chances of early detection of breast cancer by 1.5 to 2.5 times.
Is self-examination helpful?
Of course, it is! About 20% of the time, cancers in the breast are found by self-checks and not during mammography. Our experts at Brexa recommend that all women should routinely undertake a Breast Self-Exam (BSE) to reduce the risk of the disease.
Here are five easy steps to follow:
Stand in front of a mirror that is large enough for you to see your breasts clearly. Keep your shoulders straight and hands on your hips. If this is not a comfortable stance for you, then clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward.
Take a deep breath, clear your mind and just relax yourself. We understand your biggest fear related to the disease is to find a lump in the breast during the test. However, this fear won’t go away unless you make the first move and do a BSE. Therefore, just calm down and don’t let your imagination take over you.
Raise your arms and look for any changes around the shape, size and colour of your breasts. You can even press your hands firmly on your hips and pull your elbows and shoulders forward. Look for any fluids oozing out of one or both of your nipples. Write down your observations on a piece of paper or note them down on your phone – whatever is convenient.
Now lie down to spread the breast tissue evenly all over your chest. Make yourself comfortable by keeping a small pillow or a towel under the shoulder. Touch your left breast with your right hand and your right breast with your left hand. Please remember to touch your breast gently with the first few finger pads of your hand and make sure you keep your fingers flat and together.
Since you have to check your entire breast, start with examining your nipples. Move the pads around in a circular motion, and slowly make larger circles with the fingers until you reach the outer edge of the breast.
Once this is done, run your fingers on the in a vertical fashion as if you were mowing a lawn for any abnormalities.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are three different levels of pressure that you need to put on your breasts to conduct a proper examination. These are:
- Light pressure, so that you examine the tissue closest to the skin
- Medium pressure, so that you go a little deeper
- Firm pressure, so that you feel the deeper tissue closer to the chest wall
Stand up to check your breasts in this position. Follow the same process as discussed in Step 3 and 4.
What to focus on during the BSE
- Shape, size and colour of your breasts
- Breasts that are unevenly shaped due to swelling or visible distortion
- Cancer symptoms as listed here
What if you find an abnormality?
First of all, do not panic. A breast self-exam is important but its result is not medically conclusive. Instead of swirling in a sea of emotions and negative thoughts, book an appointment with a cancer specialist and go for a mammography at the earliest.
You can buy mammogram coupons at a discount from here.
But, hold on…
If you are still not confident about how well you would examine your breasts, take help of VESNA, your Virtual Assistant on our mobile app. She will guide you through each BSE step via voice and text.
Your monthly BSEs will become a piece of cake for you – that’s our guarantee!