October is considered the month of Awareness for Breast Cancer which is one of the serious concerns for women. As per statistics of the National Breast Cancer Foundation INC, breast cancer is developed in one in eight women in the USA during their lifetime.

World Health Organization –WHO is on a mission to drop global breast cancer mortality by 2.5% per year and with the Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) who aims to prevent 2.5 million deaths globally between the years 2020 and2040?

If we are able to reduce annual mortality by 2.5% per year, we can prevent 2.5 million breast cancer deaths in the coming two decades from2020 till 2040. To achieve this feat, breast cancer awareness initiatives need special mention.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Being breast-aware means knowing what’s normal for you so you can spot any unusual changes as soon as possible.

It is important to note that all breast changes are not because of breast cancer. So, there is nothing to fear. However, earlier diagnosis is crucial in fighting and eradicating breast cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed earlier, there are more chances to complete cure or recover. This is why it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any changes that are unusual for you.

Your breasts change throughout your life from puberty through adolescence and the reproductive years, to menopause when periods stop permanently. This is because levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in your body change at different times in your life.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women across the globe. So it’s important to be breast-aware regardless of your age. Being breast aware simply means that you know how your breasts look and feel. So you know well what is normal for you.

Being aware of your breasts’ condition will make you more confident about noticing any unusual changes that might be a symptom of breast cancer. Also if you notice a change, it’s important to see your doctor at the earliest.

Men should also be aware of any changes in their chest area as a very small number approximately 2% of men get breast cancer each year.

Self-Breast Examination

One can identify breast cancer by self-examining their breasts. Here is the step-by-step instruction on how to do the breast examination.

  • Touch and feel your breasts to notice anything new or unusual.
    • When you touch and feel the breasts, look for changes and see if there is anything that looks different than normal.
    • Check any new or unusual changes with a doctor or general practitioner.
  • Check your whole breast area including up to your collarbone (upper chest) and armpits
  • Regularly look and feel your breasts and get used to them. The best time to check your breasts is normally when you are in the bathroom to have a bath or shower, or while using body lotion. You can also check while getting dressed.

When you examine your breasts, check for any of the changes given below:-

  • A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest, or armpit.
  • A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • A change in the color of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed.
  • A change in nipple like it has become pulled in (inverted).
  • Rash or crusting around the nipple
  • Unusual discharge from either nipple.
  • Change in either size or shape of the breast.

As mentioned earlier, most breast changes are not breast cancer. They are likely to be normal or due to a benign (not cancer) breast condition rather than being a sign of breast cancer. But it is important for you to find out what is causing the change.

What to do if you find a change?

You know better than anyone else how your breasts look and feel normally. So, if you notice any change, get an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor will examine your breasts they may be able to identify the change or if not they will suggest further self-examination. If the doctor finds some unusual changes, he will go for further investigation.

If they are not able to find any changes after the initial investigation, they may ask you to see again after a short time or they may refer you to a breast clinic. Referring to a breast clinic does not necessarily indicate that you have breast cancer. It only means that further assessment is required to find out what is going on.

What Is Breast Screening?

Breast screening uses an x-ray called a mammogram. It can help identify breast cancer which may be too small to see or feel or before there are any signs or symptoms. Thus, it leads to early diagnosis which is crucial for proper treatment.

What Is Breast Screening Age?

Normally, women aged 50 to 71 are invited for mammograms every three years as part of the national breast screening program.

Why Women Below 50 Years Of Age Are Not Invited For Screening?

Over 80% of breast cancer cases occur in women who are aged 50 or above. Additionally, the risk also increases with the age.

What Happens During Breast Screening?

Breast Screening or mammogram is often termed as one of the ideal methods to identify breast cancer as early as possible even before your hands could do. Here are the steps of breast screening.

  • Take an appointment at a breast screening unit.
  • The mammogram will be carried out.
  • You’ll stand in front of the mammogram machine.
  • Your breasts will be placed one at a time on the x-ray machine.
  • The breast will be pressed down firmly on the surface by a clear plate.
  • At least two pictures (x-rays) of each breast will be taken, one from top to bottom and then a second from side to side to include the part of your breast that extends into your armpit.
  • You’ll need to stay in position while the pictures are taken. Taking the pictures only takes a few seconds.
  • The Report is finalized and handed over to you after final review.

Staying Breast Aware Between Mammograms

Having mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, and it’s possible for breast cancer to develop in the three years between each mammogram.

That’s why it’s important to continue to be breast aware and report any changes to your doctor even if you have had a mammogram recently.