October 21, 2019, by Shweta
How to examine yourself this Breast Cancer Awareness month (and beyond!)
As many of you may know, October is annual breast cancer awareness month. As a medical student, I’m faced with the reality of the ‘c word’ on an almost daily basis. And while October is awareness month; being aware of self-examinations, abnormalities and cancer risks is extremely important all your round.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the UK, averaging over 50,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer per year. Whilst it’s common knowledge that breast cancer affects many women, it also affects around 300 men per year. That means self-examination is important for everyone!
Unfortunately, breast cancer cannot be prevented. But there are ways to help detect it early, thereby increasing chances of survival. Regardless of age, monthly self-exams are a wonderful way of detecting any abnormalities early on.
Self-exams must be done in the shower, in front of the mirror and laying down. Positional changes will help alert you to any smaller lumps that can be hidden in some positions. Additionally, looking in the mirror will help you assess for any visual skin and/or nipple changes. Use the pads of the fingers to firmly press on the breast, moving in circular motions from the outside towards the nipple. Then use fingers to assess for any lumps or abnormal sensitivity around the nipple. Look for changes in shape, size and contour of both, the breast and the nipple. Also, look for any discharge from the nipples.
Remember, do not panic if you do find a lump. More often than not, a lump is not cancerous and there’s many reasons why you may find one, including menstrual changes. Book a consultation with your GP to rule out anything malicious.
This October, encourage your family and friends to check themselves. And remember, early detection can help save lives!
Until next time,