It is important to detect breast cancer as early as possible. The sooner it is detected, the faster the doctor can determine the right treatment strategy for you, and the higher your chance of surviving breast cancer.
Early detection starts with knowing your body well, and understanding the type of changes that you need to look out for. You are in the best position to know the normal look and feel of your breasts. Make a habit of regularly doing breast self exams so that you can identity changes early. Most importantly, if you notice any changes, speak to your doctor right away. Also, you should trust your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with what your doctor says, make arrangements to have a second opinion.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump. However, if you do find a lump – don’t panic. Some women have naturally lumpy breast, and some have lumps that come and go with their period. Other breast cancer symptoms include dimpling, rash or itching, nipple discharge, lumps in/on the underarm area.
For early detection, you should practice breast cancer screening. The types of breast cancer screening methods are described in our screening section.
Self Breast Exam
When your breasts are developing, you may feel lumps. These usually disappear on their own. If you lump is sore to touch or if it appears to be getting bigger or if you want to speak with someone about it, you can speak to your pediatrician or general practitioner. You may also speak with a family member or a school nurse. You may request a female nurse or doctor if that makes you feel more comfortable. The nurse or doctor will examine you and let you know if there is anything to be concerned about.
Sometimes you may have some pain in your breasts. This pain can be a mild, or it can be sharp, stabbing or burning. The pain may be affected by changing hormone level such as around the time of your period. If this pain worries you, speak to your doctor.
How to Do A Breast Self Exam
Regular breast self examinations are an important key to being your best advocate.
- Look at your breast in the mirror. It is important to know how your breast look and feel. Doing regular self examinations helps you to get familiar with the size, color, shape and “feel” of your breasts. important changes to look for are: dimpling, puckering, redness, soreness, fluid/discharge, rash or swelling.
- Raise your arms and see if you detect any of the changes above.
- Lay down and feel your breasts. Use your left hand to check your right breast and your right hand to check your left breast. Firmly, apply the pads of your fingers, keeping them flat and in a circular motion, examine your entire breast. Go from side to side then top to bottom. Go from your collarbone to where you abdomen starts, then your cleavage to your armpits. Make sure you choose a pattern to make sure you cover the entire breast.
- Repeat the same steps when standing or sitting.
Contact your doctor if you feel any of the following:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Change in the shape/size of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of skin
- Nipple discharge
- Persistent pain