Breast cancer is a disease caused by mutations in breast cells that go unchecked by the body. This may result from various factors, including ageing, family history, menopause, use of birth control pills, and hormone therapy after menopause. Even after years of research, the perfect cure is nowhere in sight. The best possible way to fight cancer is a successful early detection, and its removal from the body.
Cancer doesn’t creep up on you. It is more like an insolent predator, leaving signs of everything it does. It is up to you (i.e. the prey) to recognise these tell-tale signs and act upon it. Many a lives have been saved by a quick thinking mind, and many have been lost because they acted too late. To gain a foothold in the former category, you have to know exactly which signs to watch out for and what to do about them. Read this article very carefully, because somewhere in the future it has the potential to save your life.
THE SIGNS OF CARCINOMA
A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. When you see something of this sort, just keep one thing in mind: it wasn’t there earlier, and is not a part of your regular breasts. After the thought runs through your mind, have it diagnosed. There are chances it may not be a malignant growth, but then, there are also chances it might.
Skin irritation or dimpling (an unexplained indentation) around the breast may also be the first sign that the dreaded disease is coming to get you. If the problem persists, cancel a few engagements and pay a visit to the doctor.
Breast Pain may also be a sign of breast cancer, though not a very telling one. It may be cyclic (affects both the breasts and causes swelling, tenderness or lumpiness), non-cyclic (occurs in only one breast, and is characterised by a burning or sore kind of pain) or extra mammary pain (caused by a factor other than the breasts, like chest muscles, but the pain is felt as if originating from the breast). Though breast pain may be caused by hormonal changes, breast injury or water retention, it may also be caused by the infamous breast cancer.
Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin is usually an accompaniment to breast pain, which by itself may not be much to be anxious about.
Nipple Retraction is said to occur when the nipple begins to pull inward or fold itself into a narrow crease. Even when stimulated, a nipple in this state does not return to its original shape. The culprits behind this heinous act may be aging, duct ectasia or mutated carcinogenic cells.
A nipple discharge other than breast milk is actually the third most common breast complaint after lumps and breast pain. Fluid is discharged by the breasts for most of the adult life of women, but it becomes a major cause for concern if the discharge is persistent and appears without squeezing the nipple. If a bloody or watery secretion is observed with a red, pink, brown or black colour, or if the discharge is on one side only, then stop wasting time.
GOING ABOUT SELF PRESERVATION
The preferred method for detecting breast cancer is the Breast Self Examination (BSE). This involves a variety of methods and patterns which comprise of standing in front of the mirror and searching for signs of dimpling, swelling, or redness on or near the breasts. A BSE done once every month should intimate you to any signs of cancer.
SIX-STEP SELF EXAMINATION
Stand in front of the mirror with you arms raised and inspect for any discharge from the nipples, puckering, dimpling or scaling of the skin. Clasp hands behind your head and repeat the above process. Next, press hands firmly on your hips and bend slightly towards the mirror, while pulling your shoulder and elbow forward. I assure you that you can detangle yourself at the end. The inspections, of course, are done once again.
For the next bit, get yourself a shower and soap up the breasts. Soapy skin makes it easier for the fingers to feel the texture underneath. Raising your left arm, use the fingers of your right to feel the left breast in a firm manner. Move your fingers in circles slowly around the breast. Start from the outside and move gradually towards the nipple. Repeat the exercise with the right breast. Keep in mind that you are looking for any unusual lumps under the skin. Gently squeeze the nipples to check for any discharge.Repeat steps 4 and 5 while lying down. Lie flat on the back with your left arm under your head. Put a pillow or towel under you left shoulder, and feel the left breast with the same circular motion as in step 4. Repeat with the right breast.
Studies depict breast cancer incidences to have increased by about 12%, and at present, 1 in every 8 woman gets this disease. These are alarming figures, especially for a nation with such a large population. You just get one shot at life. Taking a little time to scan for signs of cancer helps you detect it early and catch it off guard. Remember, it’s your life, don’t let a disease run it.