Breast cancer screening can be done through mammogram, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound scan and breast self-examination. But experts say the latter is the first in a long process of life-saving measures that can stop breast cancer in its tracks.
According to the Executive Director, Care, Organisation, Public Enlightenment, Mrs. Ebunola Anozie, the first symptom of breast cancer that most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in the breast. “Most lumps are not cancerous but it is always best to have them checked by your doctor,’’ she says.
Anozie, whose non-governmental organisation provides free breast screening and support for breast cancer patients and survivors respectively, says that BSE should ideally start with a visual inspection and then a manual inspection with the hands. She advises that women should first leave their hands out and check for lumps and depressions around the breasts and towards the armpits.
“In the privacy of your bathroom, strip to the waist and stand before a mirror. You will need to see both breasts at the same time. Stand with your hands on your hips and check the appearance of your breasts. Look at size, shape, and contour. Note changes, if any, in the skin color or texture. Look at the nipples and areolas, to see how healthy they look.
“Raise your left arm overhead and use your right-hand fingers to apply gentle pressure to the left breast. Stroke from the top to the bottom of the breast, moving across from the inside of the breast all the way into your armpit area. You can also use a circular motion, being sure to cover the entire breast area. Take note of any changes in texture, colour, or size. Switch sides and repeat. This is best done in the shower, as wet skin will have the least resistance to the friction of your fingers.
“Still facing the mirror, lower both arms. With the index and middle fingers of your right hand, gently squeeze the left nipple and pull forward. Does the nipple spring back into place? Does it pull back into the breast? Note whether or not any fluid leaks out. Reverse your hands and check the right nipple in the same way.
Place a pillow on the bed so that you can lie with both your head and shoulders on the pillow. Lie down and put your left hand behind your head. Use your right hand to stroke the breast and underarm.”