The Importance of Regular Breast Self-Examinations

Breast self-examinations are an essential tool in the early detection of breast cancer. This straightforward self-assessment enables individuals to familiarize themselves with the structure and general appearance of their breasts, thereby facilitating the early detection of any unusual changes.

The Purpose of Self-Examinations

Regular self-examinations enable individuals to become familiar with their breasts' normal appearance and to promptly notice any changes or irregularities. The most common indicator of a potential tumor is the presence of a lump, which is typically non-painful but palpable or even visible.

It's also crucial to pay attention to the appearance of the nipple, which may become retracted, protrude more, or secrete fluid. Any changes to the skin, particularly if they only affect one breast, should also be noted. Regular self-examinations allow for constant monitoring of breast tissue and the detection of any nodular hardenings that were not present in previous self-examinations.

Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. It occurs due to the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of some breast cells, resulting in a tumor mass within the mammary gland. These tumors can be benign (such as fibroadenomas or cysts) or malignant (carcinomas). Malignant tumors are particularly dangerous as they can progress and invade nearby tissues or other parts of the body.

Early diagnosis is possible through widespread mammography screening programs and regular check-ups based on age and personal history. The treatment and recovery possibilities depend on the stage and biological characteristics of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Current treatments for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapies.

When to Perform Self-Examinations

Starting from the age of 20, breast self-examinations should be performed once a month, ideally one week after the end of the menstrual cycle. This is because the structure of the breast is prone to hormonal changes that occur monthly. Knowing your body allows you to distinguish between normal changes and potential causes for concern.

If you are pregnant or in menopause, the timing of the self-examination is less critical. However, other signs such as skin changes, fluid secretions from the nipple, or changes in the shape of the breast should prompt a consultation with a doctor.

How to Conduct a Self-Examination

A self-examination consists of two phases: observation and palpation.

Observation: Look for any irregularities in the shape of the breast, changes in skin color, cracked nipples, skin ulcerations, or dimples. This should be done in front of a mirror, with your torso erect, shoulders relaxed, and arms at your sides. Repeat the observation with arms raised and again with hands in front of your forehead and pectoral muscles contracted.

Palpation: The palpation phase involves examining the breast by sliding the inner part of three joined fingertips in small concentric movements. These maneuvers should be repeated for each quadrant of the breast. Any nodules or hardening of the breast tissue can be detected by moving your fingers in a circular direction with gradually increasing pressure.

What to Look Out For

During a breast self-examination, pay attention to changes in the shape and size of one or both breasts, thickening or lumps in the breast or armpit area, discharge of blood or fluid from the nipples, depressions, wrinkles, bumps or dimples on the skin surface, or unusual sensations.

Other signs to be aware of include breast nodules, changes in the appearance of the nipple, skin and areola inflammations or rashes, and unexplained pain in the breast or armpit.

Remember, a self-examination is not a substitute for a breast examination or instrumental tests, such as mammography and ultrasound. However, regular and correct breast self-examinations can help in the early diagnosis of cancer, reducing the risk of diagnosing advanced cancer. If you notice any of these symptoms, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional promptly.

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The Wellyme Team

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