So, it’s October again.
For those who know, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and I would like to begin by expounding on the title of this blog post; but first, STORY TIME!
Vanessa (not her real name) never really knew the severity of breast cancer, probably because of the fact that it had never “hit home” for her. She had never known any one close to her that suffered from breast cancer. That all changed one fine day while she was at school.
It was first year at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi. Vanessa was walking from class back to my hostel with my friends and one of them mentioned that she had a lump at the bottom of her armpit. They joked and laughed about it, teasing her about using cheap deodorants and soaps. That weekend, she fell sick and traveled to Kampala to get treatment for what she thought were ordinary chest pains.
The doctor told her that the lump she had under her arm was malignant; that means that it contained cancerous cells which could grow and expand to other parts of her breast. He went on to explain that it was good that she had detected it early, otherwise the cells would have spread to her left breast and she would have had to have it removed.
Early detection is key in overcoming breast cancer, but here’s the issue – how do you detect the cancer early?
Introducing Operation ‘Grab That Boob!’
Yes, I know, it sounds a little dumb; but hear me out. I can bet a good number of us have never gone for a mammogram, or don’t see the need to have one (I’ve been guilty of both). What if I told you that you have the option of doing a self breast exam; any time, any where, even in the comfort of your room? For those who are not familiar with this procedure, don’t worry. Here’s how to do it in four simple steps.
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms by your hips. Here’s what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
However, if you see any of the following changes – RED FLAG! 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
Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step 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)
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 a circular motion, about the size of a coin. 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 or in rows. 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.
And there you have it – a simple Do-It-Yourself breast exam. Don’t sit on this post. Share! Tweet! You don’t know whose life you could be saving.
Have a great Breast Cancer Awareness month, and don’t forget to GRAB THAT BOOB!