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Have you check your breast?

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Lumps around your breast may be painful or painless, hard or tender, irregular edges or round in shape indicating breast cancer [1]. In Malaysia, breast cancer is known to be the most common cancer among females, accounting for 34.1% of all cancer types [5]. Managing lifestyle habits that help to lower the risk of breast cancer such as maintaining a healthy weight. As overweight and hormone replacement therapy may disrupt body’s hormone regulations that affect one’s metabolism. Controlling a healthy weight with the combination of a healthy eating pattern consuming a variety of foods, limits processed foods, alcoholic drinks [2, 8] and sweetened snacks and being physically active at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity workout a day [1, 7]. 

Being breast aware by knowing one’s normal breast appearance and tenderness under usual conditions. If any changes or unusual feelings may be detected earlier and approach for medical treatment if necessary as early diagnosis lead to higher chances of successful treatment and survival [3]. Here are some other possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer [1]: 

  • Painful breast or nipple
  • Skin dimpling 
  • Swollen breast
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Dry nipple or dry skin surrounding the breast
  • Nipple discharge

Breast self-examination should be performed starting when one hits puberty and adapt it as a regular habit. Learning the proper methods of breast self-exam practice at least once a month (advisable to be on the same day every month) that allow one to familiarize with one’s own body parts [4, 6]. Record the results of the self check in a journal and keep track of the changes [4]. Following the five simple steps to practice breast self-exam: 

Step 1: Start by observing your breast in a mirror with your shoulders straight and arms on your hips. Check on the size, shape and color, the breast should be evenly shaped and no obvious swelling [4, 6]. 

Step 2: Raise your arms and observe again on the size, shape and color [4, 6].

Step 3: Also, take note of any fluid flowing from the nipples. The fluid may be watery, milky, yellowish or even blood [4].

Step 4: Lay down on a smooth surface, use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice versa. Keep fingers flat and together, applying a firm pressure to touch with the first few finger pads. In a circular motion, start from the nipple and go outwards in larger circles until the edge of the breast [4, 6].

*Note: apply the pressure accordingly to touch and feel all the breast tissues from front to the back of the breast. For deeper tissues, one should be able to feel your ribcage.

Step 5: Lastly, check again while standing or sitting as mentioned in step 4 [4]. 

Contact your doctor if there are any unusual appearances on the breast as mentioned above. Notably one has a family history of the disease or when the changes lasted for more than one full menstrual cycle [2, 3]. But if one is experiencing menstruation during the changes, it is advisable to wait until the cycle finishes and observe again after 4-5 days. Women who have undergone menopause are recommended to do so as well. Screening tests should be conducted yearly especially for women aged 40 and above [6]. 

References:

  1. American Cancer Society, 2020. Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms [Online] Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/breast-cancer-signs-and-symptoms.html [Accessed 12 Oct 2020]
  2. American Cancer Society, 2020. Five Ways to Help Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk. [Online] Available at: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/five-ways-to-reduce-your-breast-cancer-risk.html [Accessed 12 Oct 2020]
  3. Breast Cancer Foundation, 2020. Introduction to Breast Cancer. [Online] Available at: https://www.breastcancerfoundation.org.my/about-breast-cancer [Accessed 12 Oct 2020]
  4. Breastcancer.org., 2020. Breast Self-Exam. [Online] Available at: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam#:~:text=Try%20to%20get%20in%20the,to%20be%20swollen%20and%20tender. [Accessed 13 Oct 2020]
  5. National Cancer Registry, 2019. Female Breast. Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report (MNCR) 2012-2016, pp. 31-33.
  6. National Cancer Society Malaysia, 2020. Breast Cancer Publications. [Online] Available at: https://cancer.org.my/get-ahead/educational-material/breast-cancer-publications/ [Accessed 15 Oct 2020]
  7. Sauter, E., R., 2018. Breast Cancer Prevention: Current Approaches and Future Directions. European Journal of Breast Health, 14(2), pp.64-71.
  8. Sun, Y., C., Zhao, Z., Yang, Z., N., Xu, F., Lu, H., J., Zhu, Z., Y., Jiang J., Yao, P., P., Zhu, H., P., 2017. Risk Factors and Prevention of Breast Cancer. Internal Journal of Biological Sciences, 13(11), pp.1387-1397. 

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