Breast Cancer Risk
You are at risk developing cancer simply because you are a woman. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in woman. Woman of all ages get breast cancer. However, it becomes more common as a woman grows older.
If your mother, sister or daughter has breast cancer, you are at some increased risk. However, most women, especially those aged 40 and above, should be concerned about breast cancer.
A mammogram is a special x-ray of the breasts. The x-ray shows the glands, fat and blood vessels under the skin of the breasts. It also shows the muscles in the underarm area.
Mammography is a safe test. The radiation does is extremely low and carefully monitored. Any possible risk with modern mammography is negligible compared to the proven benefits.
Regardless of the result of your screening mammogram, you need to talk to your doctor if you notice a change in your breasts such as:
- A lump
- Mipple discharge
- Retraction (the nipple or skin being pulled in)
Early Detection & Cure
Breast cancer frequently can be cured if it is found when it is small and has not spread to other parts of the body. Early detection makes it possible to give treatment and still save the breast, Screening mammography is the key to early detection. It is the only way to find breast cancer before it can be felt.
Preparations For Mammography
- Do not apply any perfume, deodorant, powder or ointment to the underarm area or on the breast on the day of the examination. This may produce shadows on your mammogram.
- For your convenience, wear a two-piece outfit, a skirt or slacks and a top.
- Try not to schedule the mammogram near the menstrual period because breasts tend to be more tender than usual at that time.
- Bring along with you the pictures of mammograms you have had before.
How To Keep Your Breasts Healthy?
What Can I Do to Keep My Breast Healthy?
- Seek advice immediately if you notice any change in your breasts.
- If you are 40 years or above, ask your doctor about having a mammogram.
- As you grow older, regular mammograms should become part of your usual health checks.
- Do monthly breast self-examination (BSE).
- Have your doctor examine your breasts at least once a year.
Self Examination of Breasts
The little time you spend each month to examine your breasts could save your life. The American Cancer Society recommends that, if you are menstruating, do the breasts self-examination (BSE) described below 7 to 10 days after the first day of your period. If you are postmenopausal or no longer menstruating, do the BSE on the first day of the month. You will become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel if you do the BSE the same way every month. If you notice unusual change, see your doctor right away. Do not panic. These changes may not automatically mean you have breasts cancer but your doctor should further evaluate them. Some of the changes should watch out for are as follows:
- a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
- a puckering, dimpling or redness of the breast skin
In the Shower
While taking a shower, raise your left arm. With the pads of the three fingers of your right hand, carefully examine your left breast for lumps or hard knots, starting from the centre of your armpit. With varying degrees of pressure, make small circles up and down. Include the area above the breast, up to the collarbone and all the way out to your shoulder. Repeat this process on your right breast.
In Front of a Mirror
Place your hands by your sides and check your breasts for any changes in color, size, shape, dimpling or scaling of the skin. It is not unusual for one breast to be larger than the other. Check again, first placing hands on hips – pressing shoulders and elbows forward to flex chest muscles – then with hands raised and clasped behind your head. Gently squeeze each nipple between your thumb and forefinger, checking for sticky or bloody discharge. A drop or two of clear or milky fluid is normal.
With a pillow or a folded towel under your left shoulder, raise your left hand above your head. Examine your entire breast in circular motions as described in Step 1, beginning at the armpit. Use light, medium and deep pressures. Do not lift your fingers from your breast as you move them in order not to miss any spot. You can use lotion to make it easier for your fingers to slide over your skin. After you have covered the entire breast area, put your arm down beside you. With your arm relaxed by your side, examine the part of your breast that goes up into your armpit. Repeat the entire process on your right breast. Also gently squeeze each nipple to check for discharge.