How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you never imagined? Most women who face breast cancer report this feeling. Some manage to identify cancer early; others, unfortunately, discover it later, which is why I want to share with you some information that will help you to prevent this silent disease.

According to INCA (National Cancer Institute), breast cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled multiplication of breast cells. This process generates abnormal cells that multiply, forming a tumor. There are several types of breast cancer, which is why the disease can evolve in different ways. Some types develop rapidly, while others grow more slowly. These distinct behaviors are due to the specific characteristics of each tumor. Breast cancer also affects men, but it’s rare, representing only 1% of the total cases of this disease.

What increases the risk and how can it be prevented?

Breast cancer doesn’t have only one cause. There are different factors such as obesity after menopause, physical inactivity, consumption of alcoholic beverages, frequent exposure to radiation (X-ray), not having children, having the first pregnancy after the age of 30, use of hormonal contraceptives, and having a family history of cancer, among others. A woman who has one or more of these genetic/hereditary factors is considered to be at high risk for developing breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean that she will have the disease. There are ways to prevent breast cancer, and most of them are habits that we can put into practice in our daily lives:

  • Practice physical exercise;
  • Have a healthy diet;
  • Maintain a healthy body weight;
  • Avoid using contraceptives or hormone replacement therapies;
  • Breastfeeding.

There are treatments for breast cancer, and most countries offer resources for patients. These treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy (targeted therapy).

Each treatment depends on the type of cancer and the stage. That’s why it’s important to detect the tumor early. When the disease is discovered early, there is greater healing potential. We need to check ourselves daily and get to know our body to detect differences and possible symptoms that include:

  • Nodule (lump), immobile, and generally painless: it’s the main manifestation of the disease, present in about 90% of cases when the cancer is detected by the woman herself;
  • Reddish, retracted skin that may look similar to orange peel;
  • Changes in the nipple—color or shape;
  • Small nodules in the armpits or neck;
  • Spontaneous discharge of abnormal fluid from the nipples;
  • Constant pain in the breasts or armpits;
  • Itchy skin and (or) itchiness around the nipple;
  • Change in the size and shape of the breasts;
  • Swelling of the armpit or around the collarbone.
Breast self-exam diagram

When it’s time to shower, take the opportunity to perform a self-exam. Stand in front of a mirror and check. If you notice any difference, even if minimal, see a gynecologist or an oncologist as soon as possible.

I write this message with lots of love hoping that you can get to know yourself and protect yourself. One touch can save your life.

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