KARACHI: Breast Cancer is a health condition that not only takes a toll on its victim’s entire physical well-being, but also their mental health. In Pakistan, unfortunately, early detection for Breast Cancer is not many women can attain, as most women are not aware of how to detect signs as the condition approaches. “Breasts” is a word highly sexualized in our society and not many women feel comfortable talking about the issues associated with it. Due to this taboo, Pakistan alone has the highest rate of Breast Cancer than any other Asian country as approximately 90,000 new cases are diagnosed every year out of which 40,000 die – JPMA. It is thus important to know how to detect early signs of Breast Cancer.
How do you check for yourself whether you are at risk? Here is a step-by-step guide to help with early detection, should you be at risk of breast cancer, through self-examination.
Look at your breasts in the mirror. Stand upright with your shoulders straight and arms resting on your hips. Your breasts should be their usual size, shape, and color. They should be evenly shaped without any bulges, swelling or distortion. Any dimpling, puckering or bulging needs immediate attention from a doctor. A nipple that is inverted i.e., pushed inward instead of sticking out. Any redness, soreness or rash needs to be brought up with the healthcare practitioner too.
Raise your arms above your head, with your elbows straight and hands touching above. Look for the same changes as mentioned in step 1.
Look for any discharges from the nipples. If there is any fluid (watery, yellowish, milky, or bloody), see a doctor immediately.
Now, lie down and feel your breasts. Use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice versa. Press down gently using the pads on your fingers, make sure your fingers sit flat on your skin. Circle around the nipple and see if the skin feels lumpy or smooth. If it is the former, medical attention may be required, although not every kind of lump is malignant. Women have lumps in their breasts throughout their cycle which dissolve sometime after their period ends. However, should the lumps persist, you might want to get a mammogram.
Check for any lumps from your collarbone till the armpits and also check the area around your cleavage and upper abdomen.
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Remember, your breasts are like any other part of your body. It serves a purpose and is a major part of your identity. The shame associated with a part of your body should not stop you from caring for it, or for yourself. Know your breasts.