The breast self exam

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH & FITNESS - Krysta An­der­son Gleaner Writer krysta.an­der­son@glean­erjm.com

OC­TO­BER IS Breast Cancer Aware­ness Month, and we de­cided to hon­our the oc­ca­sion by pro­vid­ing some in­for­ma­tion about the pros and cons of breast self- ex­am­i­na­tion.

A breast self-exam, as the name sug­gests, is a do-it-your­self test geared to­wards early de­tec­tion, as far as breast cancer symp­toms are con­cerned.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Der­ria Corn­wall, women 40 years and older should start do­ing reg­u­lar checks on their breasts by vis­it­ing their doc­tors for rou­tine screen­ings at least once per year. Women younger than 40 are en­cour­aged to con­duct self­ex­am­i­na­tions for early-de­tec­tion pur­poses.

ROU­TINE CHECKS

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, she said, breast self-ex­am­i­na­tions have not sig­nif­i­cantly de­creased the num­ber of breast cancer pa­tients. Rou­tine screen­ings have been the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the drop in num­bers. Screen­ings can de­tect signs of cancer be­fore there are symp­toms. How­ever, breast self-ex­am­i­na­tions are still valu­able as they en­cour­age aware­ness of the body.

“And it is for this rea­son we en­cour­age self-ex­am­i­na­tions. The mam­mo­gram might project a false neg­a­tive and there’s a 10 per cent chance that it may not show ab­nor­mal­ity, so if you still feel a lump, with the mam­mo­gram be­ing neg­a­tive, then it is rec­om­mended that fur­ther checks be done in the form of an ul­tra­sound, as a sec­ond opin­ion so to speak, just to be sure that you’re in the clear,” said Dr Corn­wall.

The best time to do a breast self­ex­am­i­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to the doc­tor, is af­ter the men­strual cy­cle has passed. “Your breasts might be lumpy be­fore and dur­ing your pe­riod, so the best time to con­duct the test is af­ter,” Dr Corn­wall high­lighted.

Stand in the shower or lie on the bed. Ex­am­ine from the out­ward-in­ward by pat­ting with a firm, smooth touch, clock­wise around the cir­cum­fer­ence of the breast un­til you reach the nip­ple, then look out for any changes, such as shift­ing or rashes that may be a sign of Paget’s dis­ease.

Do not ig­nore any lump you feel. If you feel some­thing, don’t stay at home and wait to see if it will go away. Go to the doc­tor im­me­di­ately.

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