The breast has become a common site for cancer to thrive in recent times. Cancer of the breast is characterised by untold pain, suffering and death. However, like cancer of the cervix, it begins slowly and takes time before causing havoc and death. Thus early detection and treatment is highly advisable. The Tide’s Women Desk, this week considers it worthwhile bringing to you what you need to know about breast cancer and the need for self examination.
What is breast self examination?
Breast self examination consists of looking and feeling one’s own breasts for any area of abnormality, such as a lump that is not painful or tender.
Why is breast self examination necessary?
It is necessary because breast cancer starts as a small painless breast lump that is often not discovered early. The sufferer does not become aware of its presence until the late stages of the cancer because it is painless. So feeling the breasts is the best way to discover the cancer early before it starts to destroy the rest of the body.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the condition in which breast tissues are destroyed because of the sudden excessive growth of its cells leading to destruction of the surrounding tissues and the spread of the cancer cells mostly through blood stream to other organs, causing further damages and subsequently death.
How is self examination done?
First, look carefully at the breasts in front of the mirror with the arms down by the sides (1) raise arms above the head. (2), use the flat surface of the fingers of the opposite side including the armpits and the area around the nipples in a circular motion, and in a circular direction while keeping the other hand firmly noshing downwards at the waist, (35) Repeat this process while lying down with the opposite arm raised above the head, (4) Then gently use two fingers to squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge from the nipples.
What are the abnormalities one may find in the breasts during breast self examination?
On looking at the breasts in the mirror –
Change in size or shape of the breasts.
Drawing in of the Nipple
Drepressions on the surface of the breast newly visible veins observation.
Rashes or Scaling of the skin
On feeling the breasts, look out for:
Lump or thickening with the breast whether tender or not.
On squeezing the nipple watch out for:
Discharge or bleeding
Lump within the nipple
How often should breast self examination be done?
It is advisable to do breast self examination every month after a period because the breasts are less lumpy at this time. However, breast self examination can be done at any other time if discomfort is felt in the breast.
At what age should regular breast self examination start?
Breast self examination should start from the age of twenty years.
Is breast cancer common in Nigeria?
It is one of the commonest cancer that affects women. It is believed to be second to cancer of the cervix (outlet of the womb) in Nigeria. Nonetheless, it is a major public health problem in Nigeria as in other parts of the world.
Who are those prone to developing breast cancer?
The older the woman, the higher the chances of developing breast cancer.
Daughters of a woman who suffered breast cancer have higher chances of developing breast cancer.
Child bearing is known to relatively protect against breast cancer.
Longer period of breast feeding also appears to protect against breast cancer.
Are there other tests to detect breast cancer?
Yes, X-Ray examination of the breast known as mammography, also detects abnormalities in the breasts even before a lump can be felt. However, there are very few of those specialized X Ray machine in Nigeria.
What are the chances of a cure for breast cancer?
To date, there is no drug that can completely cure cancer. However, if a breast lump is discovered early to be cancer, before the cancer cells spread to other organs, removing the breast can cure the cancer.
How can you help in this campaign to save the lives of women from dying of breast cancer?
Please share this information with your friends, sisters, mothers and daughters.
Can a man develop breast cancer?
Yes. Men can also develop breast cancer but it is rare in men.
– Culled from MWAN 2016 Weeks Book.
Compiled by Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi