Breast awareness encourages women to become more aware of their bodies generally and get to know their own their breasts. You should know how your breasts look and feel at different times so that you can recognise any irregular changes.
Normal Changes of Your Breast
Most breast changes are directly related to developing or aging breast tissue. These include tenderness/pain, lumps and nipple changes. For example, breast pain due to the monthly menstrual cycle is considered normal. Some women breasts are getting larger and they are experiencing tenderness and they feel a bit lumpy at their breast. After menstruation, this lumpiness may disappear. Breast lumps that occur while the breasts are developing are always benign it will go off after certain period of time. If it not resolved, it may require further investigation.
Changes to be Aware of
- Lumps or thickening at the breasts.
- Change in shape or size of the breast.
- Change in appearance (warm,swollen,red, scaly).
- Nipple discharge or inverted nipples or rashes around the nipple.
- Skin changes – puckering or dimpling.
- Swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone (where the lymph nodes are).
- Continuous pain in any part of the breast.
How to Examine Your Breasts
Step 1: Look at your breasts
- Stand in front of a mirror and hang your arms loosely by your sites, look at your breasts for any changes stated above.
- Raise your hand above your head and examine your breast.
- With your hands pressing firmly down on your hips (chest muscle tense up), examine your breast.
- Squeeze your nipple gently to check for any bleeding or any unusual discharge.
Step 2: Position yourself to examine your breast
- Lie down with a pillow under right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head.
Step 3: Feel your breast
- Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel your right breast.
- Use light pressure to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs.
- Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side- from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand.
Step 4: Report any changes to your doctor
- If you do notice a change in your breasts, consult your doctor without delay.
- The doctor may refer you for an ultrasound, a mammogram (if you are above 45 or 50) or a biopsy test.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
- Age – the risk increases with age
- Genes – A family history of breast cancer increases the chances of getting breast cancer
- Hormones – Women who start their periods at an early age or experience a late menopause have a higher risk
- Diet – Women with a high dietary intake of fat have higher risks
- Limit alcohol – limit alcohol to less than one drink a day or avoid alcohol completely.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Excess fatty tissue is a source of body estrogen and breast cancer risk is linked to the amount of estrogen in your body.
- Stay physically active – Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of breast cancer.
- Limit fat in your diet – A low-fat diet helps in maintaining a healthy weight thus reducing the risk of cancer.
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