Do you know that about 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected through a breast self – exam? That’s the reason why breast self-exam remains as a key method in the diagnosis of breast cancer and with October, breast cancer awareness month, right around the corner I want to walk you through the steps on how to do it. First, here are some important facts:
- Statistics say that about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Women are diagnosed with breast cancer more than any other type of cancer. It is the second deadliest type of cancer in women, with lung cancer being the first.
- There is an estimation that 252,710 new cases of breast cancer in women will be diagnosed in 2017, with 63,410 of those being non-invasive.
- About 2,470 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2017. Yes, men’s risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 1,000 in their lifetime.
- For 2017, the number of deaths expected in women with breast cancer is 40,610 and 460 in men.
- Up until March 2017, there were more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S.
- The risk of breast cancer in a woman almost doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
- About 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations inherited from the mother or father.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of breast cancer or inherited mutations, it is as a result of genetic mutations due to lifestyle and aging.
How to perform a breast self-exam?
- First, start by looking at your breasts in the mirror keeping your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Pay attention to size, shape and color. Look for any distortion in shape, swelling, dimpling, puckering, bulging of the skin, change in nipple shape/position, redness or soreness.
- Now, still looking at your breasts in the mirror, raise your arms and clasp your hands. Look for the same changes. Also, pay close attention to any fluid and/or discharge coming from one or both nipples.
- Then, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. The breasts usually do not match, but look for signs of dimpling, puckering or one sided changes.
- Standing palpation: some women prefer to do this in the shower because with the combination of water and soap the hand will slide easier during palpation. First, raise one arm and put your hand on the back of your head. Use three to four fingers of the opposite hand to perform palpation starting from the outer edges towards the nipple with a firm circular motion. Very important to cover the whole breast including armpits, the area between the breast and the armpit, between the breasts and the bra line. Perform the palpation with light, medium and firm pressure. Repeat the same for the other breast.
- Palpation lying down: when lying down, the breast tissue will spread out evenly on the chest wall. Place a pillow under the shoulder of the breast you are going to examine and the arm behind your head. Using the opposite hand, palpate with your fingers using light, medium and deep circular motion. Make sure to cover the whole breast including the armpit, the area between the armpit and the breast, between breasts and bra line. When you’re done, squeeze the nipple and note any discharge or lumps. Repeat the same steps for the opposite side.
- When to do it? Monthly. For women who do not get a period, do your self-exam on the same day every month. For those who have a period, do the exam every month right after your period ends.
If you feel and or see anything abnormal, contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Also, come to us and we can evaluate your risk and determine what’s best for you.
Dr. Yarilis Vazquez, ND
Naturopathic Doctor- SOPHIA Natural Health Center