Breast cancer. It causes the most number of cancer-related deaths in women. Practising breast self-awareness is highly important; by checking your breasts on a regular (ideally, monthly) basis, you can easily identify when something seems a little off.
Here are four things you need to know in order to be breast self-aware:
– Family history: If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you are at a higher risk for breast cancer. A little-known fact is that even a woman’s father can pass on the risk of breast cancer to her.
– Your breasts: Knowing the normal architecture of your breasts is important, as this will enable you to understand changes in your breasts. Look at them, feel them, and get to know them well. Many women aren’t even aware where the breast tissue is located—it actually extends all the way up to the clavicle (collarbone).
– Signs and symptoms: Sudden or abnormal nipple discharge could be a sign of breast cancer, though mostly, nipple discharge is due to benign conditions. Typical cancers feel very hard, much like a frozen pea. Lumps are what you need to look out for, especially lumps that don’t go away with your period cycle.
– Risk factors: Keeping in mind known risk factors, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Maintain a healthy body weight, reduce consumption of fatty foods, exercise regularly, and limit intake of alcohol.
Here are some helpful tips to practise breast self awareness:
1. Touch your breast tissue from different angles, applying varying pressure. This way you can feel both the surface and the deep layers, from just below your skin to the interior by your ribs.
2. In the process, ensure you cover your entire breast—remember, your breast tissue extends all the way up to your collarbone, around your sides, underneath your armpit and into your sternum (breastbone).
3. By doing this, you are looking for changes in shape, size, contour, pulling, dimpling, scaling, or redness on the nipple or the breast.
4. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump. For many women, it is normal to have lumps that come and go with their period. You need to be worried if the lump gets bigger and persists, or like mentioned earlier, feels like a frozen pea. Do not panic the moment you spot a lump, as 80% of lumps are not cancerous
In case any of these symptoms persist or worsen over a period of 2-3 weeks, consult a doctor without further delay. Monitoring your breasts over time can be hard to remember, but worry not, for there are plenty of apps (available on the Play Store and App Store) which function as reminders by sending you a monthly text message that prompts you to check in with your breasts regularly. Now that you know what to be on the lookout for and the tools that can help you, it’s on you to turn awareness into action.
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