October is breast cancer awareness month and here at AHM, we are very passionate about breast cancer awareness and support. Every 19 seconds, somewhere around the world, a case of breast cancer is diagnosed amongst women. Every 74 seconds, somewhere around the world someone dies from breast cancer. Such statistics is scary to every woman and awareness is very important in managing this disease.
Checking your breasts regularly for any unusual lumps is very important and the time at which one conducts this breast exam really matters. For instance, It is normal for a woman’s breasts to be tender during ovulation and menstruation and so conducting a self-breast exam during this time may not give correct results. The safest time to carry out a self-breast exam is two to three days after menstruation. Below are 5 quick ways you could conduct a self breast exam.
1. Stand in front of the mirror and observe the size of your breasts. Look out for any abnormal swellings and unusual increase in size. Note that It is normal for one breast to be slightly bigger than the other. It is rare for one’s breasts to be severely different in size but about 5% to 10% of women have severely different sizes with the left being larger in 62% of the cases.
2. Lift both hands up gradually and observe the movement of your breasts. Both breasts should move up as you lift your hands. Be keen to observe if any of your breast lags down as you lift your hands. Lumps are likely to hold a breast down.
3. Lift up one of your hands and check the breast of the same side lifted up. Move in circular motions with the pads of your three fingers(the index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger) laid flat on your breast tissue starting from the periphery moving towards the nipple. Start circular movements two centimeters away from the breast as the breast tissue extends to about two centimeters beyond the visible breast tissue. As you make the circular motions, look out for any lumps in your breast. After each round of circular motion, do not lift your fingers off the breast but rather slide them slightly to the next area that you may want to check. This will ensure you do not miss any part of the breast.
4. Squeeze your nipple to check for any liquid that may be produced. It is not normal for any liquid to be produced from the nipples if you are not breastfeeding.
Note: Every woman has a lump tissue towards the nipple. Do not get scared by this as its normal. It is immobile and big and you will feel it in a block. Lumps are usually smaller, with some mobile and others immobile. Lumps that are located deep in the breast tissue may be easy to miss so be sure to palpate deep into the breast tissue.
5. After checking both breasts, flex your upper arm slightly. This is to create space for you to check the armpits but at the same time leave the muscles at the borders of your armpits to be collected and not stretched. So with your arm slightly flexed at 30 degrees, check the armpit with your other hand using circular motion. Check the walls and centre of your armpits. Look out for any lumps in these areas. Follow the same procedure for the other armpit.
Following these tips will enable you check your breasts thoroughly. If you happen to find a lump, please see a physician for further checkup.
Angella is a student at Makerere University College of Health Sciences.She is currently in her third year offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.Angella is an essayist and the winner of the Make Every Woman Count writing Competition 2012.She is a writer and was awarded the Peers’ Favorite piece award in the writifism competition 2013 by Center for African Cultural Excellence. Angella is a researcher in health and an innovator.She was a fellow of the Global Engagement Summit 2013 in Evanston,Illinois