*Updated 30 Oct 08 8:15 pm
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer occurs in both women and men. It affects many people, not only the survivors but their family and friends.
I remember an aunt who had breast cancer years ago when I was a child. She hid it from her family and didn't get treatment until it was too late. My mother took us over to visit my aunt. After playing with my cousins, I walked in on my mother helping my aunt change her bandages. It was a terrible sight. The once proud, strong, vain woman had been reduced to a skeleton, aged beyond her years. I could see this gaping red and pink wound in her chest being cleaned. She died a few days later. I overheard my mother talking with the family after the funeral. Apparently, my aunt had revealed she was in denial of her condition at first. She knew what the lump could've meant. But my aunt feared losing her breast more than her life.
Early detection means a better chance of treatment, a greater chance of survival. A breast self exam is one of the early screening tools to help you detect breast cancer. If you find any lumps or changes, see your health care provider as soon as possible. Here are the basic steps:
The first three steps require the use of a mirror.
1. Stand in front of the mirror with your hands on your hips. Look for any signs of nipple distortion, rash, swelling, redness, or unusual changes in the size and shape and appearance of your breasts.
2. Now, raise your arms overhead and look for the same changes. Now, jiggle your breasts and see how they look...Okay, the jiggling is not really part of the steps; that was just for fun.
3. While looking in the mirror, check for signs of fluids or discharge coming out of the nipples.
4. Now, lay down on your back and use the hand opposite to the breast being examined; left hand for right breast, and right hand for left breast. Keep the right arm overhead if examining the right breast; the same for the left.
Using the tip of your fingers, use firm pressure to start a circular motion about 1 inch in diameter, palpating (feeling) for lumps. Start from the nipple, using a circular pattern, work your way out towards the rest of the breast. Make sure you cover the entire breast from the collarbone to top of the abdomen, from the armpit to the cleavage.
Another alternative is to use an up and down pattern in rows. Just work your fingers starting from the bottom going up, palpating all along the breast. Work the rows from the outer side of the breast towards the cleavage.
5. Finally, palpate your breasts when sitting or standing. Just palpate the same way as you would if you were laying down.
One of the best times to feel for any lumps is in the shower,
because the skin is slippery and wet; it makes it easier to detect any lumps or distortions.
You can examine your breasts by yourself, but it's okay to have another pair of hands feel up your breasts. There's nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.
Treasure your chest. Breast is best. Be good to your boobs.
*Updated, thanks to Snooze for the hot tip and link! Canada loves breasts! Thank you, Snooze and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada!
Please note, I and my staff will be available as well if you need help examining your breasts.