The Big C Series: Self Checkout
Cancer sucks. We said it. Almost everyone will be touched by cancer at some point in their lives, whether friends, family or their own personal experience with this hidden foe, the impact of cancer is deep and far reaching.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So, we thought we’d take the month to chat about Breast Cancer, and how we can approach self care when we or someone we love is dealing with the Big C.
Since this is the first week in our Big C series, we want to highlight the obvious: prevention is better than a cure. When we’re talking about Breast Cancer, this means self checking your breasts, getting regular mammograms and consulting with your doctor or health practitioner about your breast health. Regular scanning and reporting are vital in detecting irregularities like lumps or a difference in the look or feel of breast tissue.
As women, our breasts can change throughout our cycles and especially after childbirth or during menopause. Regularly checking your breasts in the shower or when you’re getting ready, even during periods of sensitivity is essential in supporting health and well being. If you notice anything unusual, go to your doctor for an immediate consultation.
As women, it’s a sad fact that often due to busy schedules, we tend to push things aside “for later”. When it comes to aggressive diseases like cancer and breast cancer, early detection will help to start an early treatment plan which could stop the spread and potentially save your life.
What is Self Checking?
We’re not talking about the supermarket. Self checking means taking the time each month to observe your breasts. Take a look at your chest in the mirror. Make sure you’re looking at both the breasts and the nipples. If there’s any difference of inversion in the nipples, make a note and discuss this with your doctor. Are there any noticeable spots of discolouration, bruising or redness that you can’t account for or explain?
First, standing face on to the mirror, place your hands on your hips and observe your chest in the mirror. Take note of anything that seems unusual or new. Next, raise your hands from your hips to over your shoulders. When your breasts move with your movements, make a note of anything that seems unusual in the movement.
Many people think that cancer is always an obvious lump. In fact, one sign that something isn’t quite right could be a slight bruise, red welts or differences in the skin like puckering or dimpling that aren’t usually there. If there’s anything that seems unusual to you, get it checked by a healthcare professional. If there’s any fluid leaking out of the nipples, consult your doctor for a more in-depth examination.
Breast cancer doesn’t always start in the breasts. In observing the movement of your breasts and the texture and appearance of your skin as you move your arms, you’re also taking in the lymph nodes and the tissue above and under your chest. Doing this regularly is a pretty simple way to ensure you’re familiar with your chest and can spot any key changes in the chest, underarm and pectoral area.
With your arms above your head, push your palms together. Note the way the breasts and the muscles underneath move. Next, run your hand underneath your breast. Inspecting this area will help you spot any irregularities you might not notice when dressing or bathing.
Once the visual exam is complete, you can move to the physical exam. This is best completed laying down or when in the shower.
Using the pad of your hand, gently examine the breast from side to side and top to bottom. This means: from the side of your armpit into the center breast bone and from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen. Take your time and be methodical.
Gently move your hand in circular motions sweeping around and across the breast. Make sure you use varying degrees of pressure and make note of sensitivities or differences in the feel and density of the tissue. The best way to make sure you cover all of the territory is to follow a simple pattern. The best tip: take it easy. Go from the center of the breast, slowly making bigger circles, or do the reverse and feel from the outer perimeter of the chest into the nipple.
When to go to the Doctor?
Self examinations for breast cancer aren’t a substitute for regular exams by your doctor or health care professional. Make sure you’re talking to your health care providers about regularly screening for breast cancer. Supplementing their professional care and expertise with self examinations is a great way to detect changes and get a jump on anything unusual.
Consult your doctor immediately for follow up tests like an ultrasound if you notice:
- Lumps or knots in the breast or underarm area
- Changes in the look or feel or your breasts
- Changes in the skin like dimpling, puckering, redness, rashes, welts or bruising
- Swelling, redness and pain in the breast, underarm or surrounding tissue
- Nipple discharge that is pussy or bloody
It’s not unusual for women to experience changes in their breasts as they move through their monthly cycle. The breasts change in shape, size and feel during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and during perimenopause and menopause. Just because something can be explained doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up and seek the help of a medical professional. If you see something, say something. You’re the best advocate for your health and well being.
Throughout the month, we’re highlighting Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Don’t forget to shop Pink and wear your Beauty Pillow Pinks on Wear It Pink for Breast Cancer Day on October 21st!
This information was compiled with information sourced frombreastcancer.org and the Mayo Clinic, please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your breast health.