Its breast cancer month and we are all about early detection and awareness. Every woman should do regular breast examinations to check for unusual lumps that may be dangerous, yet few women actually know how to perform these checks on themselves. Let us educate you on all the things you need to about your lady lumps.
How often should I check myself for lumps?
All women, regardless of age, should know how to check themselves for lumps and should do so on a monthly basis. In addition, professional checks by a physician or a gynecologist need to be done once a year or from the age of 20. From the age of 40, women should schedule a mammogram every year however, if you have a family history of breast cancer, even if it is only one relative, then it is advised to start having them sooner in life as well as more frequently.
What is a mammogram?
It is a special X-ray of the breasts that is able to detect a lump a fraction of the size of what the fingers can feel. This is the most effective way to find breast cancer early – up to two years before the lump is even large enough to feel. Your breast is rested on a shelf and the X-ray machine is slowly pressed down against it until you can feel pressure. This pressure spreads the breast tissue apart so the X-ray can pick up anything unusual. Although this procedure is slightly uncomfortable, it is not painful
Checking yourself for lumps.
Stand in front of a mirror. Look at your breasts firstly while standing with your arms at your sides, then raised above your head, then with your hands on your hips and your chest muscles flexed. Any unusual increase in size of one breast in particular or if one breast is noticeably lower than the other might be a warning sign.
Lie down on the floor with a pillow under your left shoulder and your left hand behind your head. With the right hand, using only the pads of your three middle fingers, inspect your left breast. Start at the outer edge of your breast and move in circles moving closer in towards your nipple with each circle. Gently squeeze your nipple and look for any discharge/fluid coming out of the nipple. Move the pillow to under the right shoulder and repeat the process with the left hand. It is important to inspect the lymph nodes under the arm as well as all the way up to the collar bone.
Another way to feel for lumps is in a wedge formation. Imagine your breast being divided into wedge shape pieces radiating out from the nipple. Use the same three fingers and massage in a line from the outside of the breast toward the nipple. Repeat this in a clockwise circle.
If you find a lump in your breast, contact your doctor immediately. Don’t panic. Eight percent of lumps are non-cancerous but still need to be checked
Other warning signs include:
Sticky or bloody nipple discharge.
Unusual hardening or thickening of your breasts.
Any change in the appearance (like puckering or pimpling) of skin around the nipples and breasts.