How To Do a Breast Self-ExamWhat is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which the breast cells grow out of control. According to an article by ‘Statistics Canada’, it is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in Canada. There are various types of breast cancers, and these variations depend on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. Among the three main parts of the breast i.e., lobules, ducts, and connective tissue, cancer most commonly begins in the lobules and ducts areas and might later spread to the surrounding blood vessels and lymph vessels. Cancer cells that form a tumour in the breast can be felt as lumps or confirmed when seen during an x-ray test.
While breast cancer is most often found in women, men can get breast cancer too. So, it is important to learn and be aware of the signs, symptoms, and risks of breast cancers.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
While different people show different symptoms of breast cancer, it is important to note that some people may not show any signs at all. Some of the common signs of breast cancer include:
- Lump in the breast or underarm
- Thickening of the breast or surrounding area
- Inverted nipple
- Discharge from one or both nipples (excluding breast milk)
- Swelling near your collarbone or armpit area
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Change in the appearance of the breast
- Changes to the breast skin or nipple area like redness, scaling, or peeling
As per a statistical report by ‘Canadian Cancer Society’, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among females in Canada, only after lung cancer. It is estimated that 1 out of every 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and on an average, 14 women will die from it every day.
A breast self-exam is an important screening tool to detect breast cancer early. The chances of early detection of breast cancer can increase when a breast self-exam is done in combination with regular screening methods such as physical doctor examination, mammogram, MRI, ultrasound, or biopsy. A Breast Self-Exam is an easy and simple procedure and can be performed at home on a regular basis, with no tools needed.
How to do a breast self-exam: explained in 5 simple steps
- Step 1: Stand in front of the mirror, place your hands on your hips and carefully observe your breasts. Look for any changes in their size, shape, and colour. If you notice any changes such as dimples, swelling, puckering, redness, rash, or change in the shape or symmetry of your breasts, note these changes, and contact your doctor immediately.
- Step 2: Raise your arms and check for the same signs. Your breasts should move to the same angle, same as each other when you raise your arms. Examine the armpit area and look for any swelling especially in the lower armpit area.
- Step 3: Standing in front of the mirror, examine both your nipples. Check for any red flags such as inverted nipples, dimples, or bumps. Gently squeeze your nipples and check if there is any unusual discharge coming out of them.
- Step 4: Stroke your breasts while sitting or standing with your fingers by applying slight pressure. Do this from the lower breast area, moving up from the centre of the breast to up until the centre of your armpits. Make sure that your cover the entire breast and armpit area. This is the bottom-up approach. You can also use the circular approach by moving your fingers in a clockwise motion and cover the entire breast, armpit, and cleavage area and check for any warning signs such as lumps, bulges, changes in texture or size of the breasts.
- Step 5: Lay down on your back and put your one arm behind your head and follow the bottom-up approach or circular approach as mentioned in Step 4. Switch sides and repeat the same method on the other breast. Take note of any signs or unusual changes.
Some general tips to keep in mind:
- Remember to take your time and not to rush while performing a breast self-exam. Stay relaxed and breathe normally.
- The pads of your three middle fingers or palms of your hands can be used to examine your breasts during the self-exam.
- Make it a routine.
- Try not to examine your breasts during your periods since they tend to be tender and swollen during those days.
If you are worried about any new symptoms and want to speak with a doctor by phone, please call Meira Care’s virtual care clinic at 877-251-0077. We offer same-day appointments from 8am – 9pm Eastern Standard Time.
Disclaimer: The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.