Though finding a lump in your breast can be scary, it is important to know that 80% of breast lumps are completely harmless. However, in order to prevent any risk to your future health and wellbeing, it is necessary to pay attention to your breasts (and your body) and recognize any differences that may happen throughout your life 😮
Here are 3 things to look out for when examining your breasts to know if everything’s A-okay in there. Remember that these tips definitely cannot and do not substitute a doctor, so there is ultimately no better solution than to get yourself checked regularly, as well as through a breast self-exam! ☝
1. Abnormal breast lumps are hard
If your breast lumps are solid and can’t be moved around smoothly under the skin, chances are, they’re abnormal. Such lumps are usually tumors 😟 These tumors may also be benign (not harmful). However, any such lumps are best examined by a doctor. Soft lumps that are smooth, firm and fluid-filled, that move around easily under the skin are known as fibroadenomas. Such lumps are common and harmless and do not cause any risk.
A friend of mine (who is in her early 20’s) had a benign lump but the doctor recommended she get it surgically removed so it does not get cancerous in the future. So if you have any doubt, even if it’s a few millimeter lump, please go get it checked.
2. Abnormal lumps tend to appear only in one breast
If you feel new lumps on both breasts at the same place, you are most likely just feeling lumpy breast tissue, as verified by the National Cancer Institute. Abnormal lumps usually appear only in one breast, and not in both ☝
3. Abnormal lumps are usually accompanied by other physical changes
An abnormal breast lump is usually accompanied by other bodily changes. This includes inverted nipples, dimpled breast skin, changes in size and shape of the breasts, etc 😯 This can also include nipple discharge that is yellow, brown, or blood. Nipple discharges can also be caused by an infection or other breast conditions. Thus it is vital that such discharges are immediately examined by a professional, especially if it is present in only one breast. Some women also experience pain in the breasts at certain points in their menstrual cycle every month. This is also normal, and not a sign of breast cancer. Women who are breastfeeding may also experience redness or inflammation. This is most likely due to an infection called mastitis, and though it isn’t terminal, it must be examined and treated by a doctor 🏥
Breast self-examination can be incredibly useful and an important screening tool to detect and treat breast cancer in its early stages. It is a convenient and zero-cost technique that all women can perform on themselves regularly and at any age 👩 The following are 5 steps to perform a breast self-exam:
Step 1: Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight, back upright and your arms on your hips. Your breasts must appear the usual size, shape, and color. If you see any new changes such as sudden dimpling or bulging of the breast skin, an inverted nipple or a nipple that has changed positions as well as any redness, soreness, rashes or swelling, make sure to bring them to a doctor’s attention 🤒
Step 2: Now raise your arms above your head and look for any of the changes mentioned above.
Step 3: Gently squeeze your nipples and look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples. This could be clear, milky, yellow, or bloody fluid 😯
Step 4: Next, lie down on a flat surface and feel your breasts. Use the first few finger pads of your hand, keep the fingers flat and together, and use a circular motion to cover the entire breast from top to bottom and both sides. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts. For the skin just above and below your breasts, use light pressure, and use firm pressure for the tissue in the middle.
Step 5: Lastly, feel your breasts while standing up or sitting. Most women find it easier to feel their breasts when the skin is wet and slippery, so they prefer to do this step in the shower 🚿 Using the same hand movements as described in step 4, cover the entire breast and feel the breast tissues thoroughly to notice any lumps or abnormalities.
The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become to tell if something is different or unusual. Try to get into the habit of performing a breast self-exam several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. Since there is no single test that can detect all breast cancers early, it is important to perform the breast self-exam to detect lumps or abnormalities that may go unnoticed with other screening methods 😯
In the case of any abnormalities, don’t hesitate to call up a doctor and get your breasts examined. The best healthcare provider to treat would be someone who knows you and has done a breast exam on you before, such as your gynecologist or primary care doctor. Better to be safe than sorry! 🤗
To spread awareness this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many places in Dubai are offering free breast screening tests. Below are a few we found:
1. Costa Coffee partnered with Kings College Hospital and will be offering complimentary private physical examinations at Costa Coffee, Al Wasl Road between the 20th-26th of October, between 9 AM-11 AM and 2 PM-4 PM.
2. Zulekha Hospital (Dubai & Sharjah) offers free breast screening for both males and females over the age of 25, as well as free X-ray mammograms for women over the age of 40 (if advised by a specialist) from 30th September – 30th November 2019.
3. Pink Caravan has a mobile clinic which offers free breast cancer checkups. Follow them on Instagram to get updates on where you can find the clinic next.
Written and Researched by Najah Bashir