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|Early signs, myths and the BSE (breast self exam)|
|Written by Alan|
|12 December 2006|
Early detection of breast cancer is an important step to curing it. Chances of surviving breast cancer increase with early treatment. The breast self exam is an important way to find cancer early. Though not every cancer can be detected this way, it has been proven as a critical step in detection. Examining ones breast is sometimes a frustrating process. One might think that one feels something, but is it cancerous? This article is a first hand guide to the BSE, and will also refer to common myths and misinformation regarding breast cancer.
The self examination process is a simple one and takes no more than 15 minutes. In 5 simple steps one can examine ones breast regularly and increase chances of early detection many fold. The following article is a guide to self examination of the breasts - first some general information and then the five steps.
It is important to remember that the self breast examination is important to awareness of change. The more you examine yourself, the more you will learn about your breast and then be able to detect changes in them when they occur. Take the habit of examining yourself every month. Examine yourself a few days after your period, or if you no longer have one then choose a day to remember, like the first of the month. Do not panic if you feel a lump - breasts are not without lumps. It is important to learn how your breast regularly feel and then to discover new and irregular lumps when they occur. It is also important to remember that most lumps discovered are removed and are benign.
Some women record their breast exam in a journal. Draw a map of your breast and describe the lumps and bumps you feel and mark where they are. This can help you remember what is normal for your breast. Some lumps may appear during the month and then disappear. Remember only a change that lasts a whole month cycle or is big and irregular should be considered suspicious. Also get a physical exam from your doctor at least once a year. It is always good to have an experienced professional examine you. Studies have shown that self examination combined with an annual examination by a doctor improves the chance of early detection.
Step 1: Look at your breast in the mirror. Stand with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. You are looking for irregularities in shape, asymmetry, distortions and changes of colour. If you see rashness, soreness and swelling or inverted nipples and skin bulging notify your doctor.
Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step 3: Squeeze your nipples gently and look in the mirror for any discharge. It can be milky, yellowish or blood.
Step 4: Lie down and feel your breast with your hands. Use the right hand to feel the left breast and vice versa. Press the breast with flat fingers and create a circle motion with your fingers. Cover your entire breast with these circular motions. The recommended pattern is to begin from your nipple and go out in circles. Press gently at first and then increase pressure to examine your deeper tissue, down to your ribcage.
Step 5: Feel you breast like you did in step four, but standing or sitting. Many women feel that their ability to feel the skin is enhances when wet, so they prefer to do this step in the shower.
Like every illness, there are many myths concerning breast cancer. What you do not know can hurt you. Incorrect information may prevent you from reducing your risk of getting breast cancer. Here are the ten most common myths and the true facts related to them.
1. Breast cancer happens only to older women.
The word "only" is a mistake. The risk of contracting breast cancer rises with age, but that does not mean younger women do not get it at all.
2. If you have a risk factor related to breast cancer you are likely to get it.
Understanding what risk factors are will help you understand that they are not(!) the cause of the disease. If you have a risk factor it might mean your chances to get breast cancer are higher than the average population, but then again, you might not get it. Of women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited genetic abnormality, 40–80% will develop breast cancer over their lifetime; 20–60% won't.
3. If you have no breast cancer history in your family you will not get it.
4. Only your mother's family history can increase your risk of contracting it.
This is false. Hereditary cancer is also passed on by fathers. Some women or men that carry the genes that are associated with breast cancer may not contract the disease and the gene will be passed onto their daughters who will get sick. The existence of the anomaly in two genes can be passed onto children and they may or may not contract the disease.
5. Using antiperspirants can cause breast cancer.
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