Among females, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, according to the announcement of the American Cancer Society in September 2018. Statistics also show that the 5 - and 10 -year relative survival rates for invasive breast cancer are 90% and 83%, respectively. 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage (no metastasis to lymph nodes, nearby structures, or other organs outside the breast), for which the 5-year survival is 99%. Although this issue is of concern to all women, the age at which controls become more necessary for being able to catch early signs of breast cancer can define as 40+. As we all know, the sooner the cancer is detected, the better the chance of treatment and higher the survival rates.
Self-examination of breast cancer, which has a very important place in cancer detection, is a very easy way to understand your body and to know that something may not be right. Although self-examination of breast cancer is not enough for a definitive diagnosis, it’s a great way to be aware of changes in your body.
As October is the month of cancer awareness, in this article, we will talk about self-examination which is very important in diagnosing this common disease.
How To Make a Self-Examination of Breast Cancer?
First of all, it is necessary to know that you need some time for self-examination of breast cancer so that you can understand what is normal for your body.Self-examination of breast cancer should be regular for a certain period of time, and you should observe the changes. Not all cancers are fully identified in this way, but this method is still very important.
For breasts, there is not a rule for “normal” size and shape. What’s normal for a person may not be for someone else. The important thing is that the person knows the shape and size of their breasts well. And also, it is necessary to be aware of the common causes or known risk factors of breast cancer, such as being overweight or obese, excessive alcohol consumption, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or being inactive to try to eliminate some of them, if possible.
By gaining awareness via performing the regular self-examinations, you may start to learn everything about it.
It is better to wait 3 to 5 days after your period ends for making self-examination of breast cancer because hormonal changes before your period can cause a temporary thickening in your breast that goes away after your period.
There are three stages in brief for self-examination of breast cancer.
Looking at your breast in the mirror:
Examine the shape of your breasts and nipples by standing in front of the mirror. Raise your arms and look at your breasts, compare and observe the two if there are any shape differences or discharge. Start getting to know closer your breasts by touching them with your hands.
At this stage, try to feel your breasts and nipples with your fingertips, under the skin of your breasts and your fat tissue. Examine your breasts for any abnormalities by touching them around the breast circumference, collarbone, underarm, bra line. Try to do it while lying down, sitting and standing. Get a smooth touch of medium hardness with the first few fingers of your hand and keep your fingers straight. Try to use circular motions.
Learn about your breast type and size that is normal for you, in short, what is actually not abnormal. The shape and volume of the breast may not be exactly the same in every woman. There may be some natural shape and tissue differences. Share some of the signs and symptoms such as lumps, with your doctor before you worry about some signs that don’t mean sickness. Your doctor may ask for additional examinations or may say that they are not the signs of breast cancer and there is no abnormality in your findings. These differences are usually compatible with your body structure.
How Is Cancer Detected After Self-Examination of Breast Cancer?
If you feel a lump in the breast or you have any dimpling, puckering, thickening or swelling in your self-examination, do not start to worry, just see your doctor. Your doctor, who wants to evaluate your findings on your self-examination of breast cancer, directs you to other examinations. Mammography is the most commonly used screening method for the detection of breast cancer. Technologies such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and molecular breast imaging are generally evaluated in addition to mammography and are not the first referral screening tools. The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 to 44 should have a choice to start yearly screening mammograms. Women ages 45 to 54 should have a mammogram each year and those 55 years and over should continue getting mammograms every 1 to 2 years.
Your doctor examines the structure and type of the lumps displayed in your mammography result. Then, if he or she wants to be surer, goes into other stages in cancer detection. The only way to confirm the cancer is to have a doctor perform needle aspiration or surgical biopsy to collect and test cancer cells.
If the doctor found cancerous cells and diagnosed breast cancer, he or she then defines the stage and type of it. Although breast cancer generally has been pointed out to as a single disease, there are 21 distinct subtypes, and at least four different molecular subtypes that differ depending on the risk factors (such as genetics, breast cancer history, age, or alcohol consumption) response to treatment, and results. They are; Luminal A, Triple negative, Luminal B, and HER2-enriched.
In Which Situations Should You Worry While Making Self-Examination of Breast Cancer?
The answer to this question is, none. You shouldn't worry about any of your findings before you see your doctor. Because the least needed feeling in your self-examination of breast cancer is the worry. You should make this necessary and effective application with a full of awareness and realism. Of course, in some cases, you will feel some abnormal tissues and lumps, but there is no need to feel upset and depressed in advance without talking with your doctor. If the doctor diagnosed cancer, treatment starts immediately, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be applied, if you find it early thanks to the self-examination, you may have a much higher chance to survive.
Does Every Lump You Found in Self-Examination Refer to Cancer?
First of all, most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, more than 80 percent of them end up being benign. In a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.
Although the majority of lumps are benign, it is still very important to see your doctor if you notice changes to your breasts. Cancerous lumps usually tend to be more irregular in shape. They are generally firm or solid and may attach to the tissue in the breast. They are more probably to be painless, but some breast cancers can cause breast pain.
Feeling of a cyst and lumps may be similar, but upon examination, cysts are small, generally harmless sac filled with fluid rather than a cancerous or benign lump of cells. They usually tend to be smooth or round, and they exist inside breast glands.
According to the common findings, while detecting during the self-examination of breast cancer, these common descriptions may help you. However, it is impossible to tell by making self-examination of breast cancer whether a lump is cancer.
You just continue to make your self-examination of breast cancer routine. You may also keep a diary to watch the differences in your breasts. Try to contribute the general awareness. But of course, do not try to diagnose yourself and do not worry about every touch. You surely already know that only your doctor may examine and define all of your findings with displaying and testing methods.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.