Self-Empowerment through Breast Self-Exams: A Comprehensive How-To
As a medical oncologist for the past decade, I’ve witnessed the immense power of early detection in combating breast cancer. And guess what? That power starts right at home, with you. Yes, I’m talking about regular breast self-exams (BSEs). They’re a simple, effective tool that can put you in charge of your own health.
Now, some might feel unsure about how to do a BSE properly. No worries! Let’s demystify the process, step-by-step:
1. Pick your time: Consistency is key. Choose a day each month, ideally around the same time in your menstrual cycle when breasts are less tender.
2. Know Your Normal: Look and feel: Start with a visual inspection in the mirror and familiarise yourself with the normal look and feel of your breasts. Understanding the contours, texture, and shape is essential for later identifying any deviations. Look for any changes in shape, dimpling, nipple retraction, or skin discolouration. Raise your arms, flex your chest muscles, and repeat the observation.
3. Get touchy-feely: Now comes the hands-on part. Perform the examination lying down, as changes in breast tissue are often easier to feel in this position. Lie down on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder. Use the pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to examine your right breast. Apply gentle, firm pressure in circular motions, covering every area from your collarbone to your abdomen and armpit to cleavage. Repeat the process for your left breast using your right hand.
4. Follow a pattern: Feeling overwhelmed? Try using a visual guide like a clock face or vertical stripes to ensure you cover all areas thoroughly.
5. Don’t forget the extras: After examining your breasts, check your armpits and around your nipples for any lumps or discharge.
Remember: The goal of BSE is not to diagnose breast cancer but to become familiar with your body. Most lumps are benign, if you notice any changes or abnormalities, don’t panic. Consult with a healthcare professional promptly for a thorough examination if you have any concerns, no matter how small.
BSEs may seem simple, but the empowerment they offer is immense. Early detection can save lives, and you are the first line of defence. Take ten minutes every month to prioritize your health. Make BSEs a regular part of your routine, and remember, you’ve got this!
Bonus tip: Spread the word! Encourage your loved ones to learn about BSEs and embrace proactive self-care. Together, we can empower ourselves and build a healthier future, one breast at a time.
Dr Veenoo Aggarwal
Millennium Cancer Center
Picture Credit Cabisole