Rarely have both genders of the human race agreed on one thing. The woman’s breast. Through the ages, it has been regarded as the pride of womanhood. The essence of motherhood. Yet an increasing number of women (and even men) are succumbing to an unrelenting killer, breast cancer. The good news is that with increasing awareness, it no longer needs to be a death sentence. We have cases of ladies who’ve defied the odds and are now leading healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. What do we know so far?
In Uganda, it is estimated that 39 out of 100,000 women suffer from breast cancer. Accurate data is hard to come by as most cases are reported in urban areas. Unfortunately, a high percentage of cases are diagnosed late due to:
- High treatment costs
- Lack of awareness
- Inadequate diagnostic and treatment facilities
Increased awareness starts with the individual. When should one seek medical attention? The ideal answer is, as soon as possible. It’s best to regularly conduct self-examinations in order to detect unusual signs and symptoms early. Here are a few steps one can take at home.
# 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. They should have their regular size, shape, and colour. They should also be evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling.
If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
# 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
# 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
# 4: Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use small circular motions.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
It’s important to check both breasts at least once a month. Many breast cancer survivors have been able to attain cancer free status through early detection. Fortunately, each day brings us closer towards understanding and managing the disease and finding lasting solutions and cures.