Breast Cancer – Take charge of your own health

The chance of a woman developing breast cancer up to the age of 85 is 1 in 8. It is a major public health concern with incidences of the disease steadily increasing every year. Therefore, performing regular breast self-exams and knowing the risks can help in reducing the number of breast cancer cases.

Dr. Ebtehaj Alanizi ,Specialist – Obstetrics and Gynecology at Abu Dhabi’s healthcare institution Burjeel Hospital, said, “When breast cancer is detected early, women have a much greater chance of being treated successfully and, for most women, the cancer will not return after treatment.”

Dr. Alanizi believes that women of all ages should become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts and be proactive about their health by performing regular self-breast examinations and scheduling regular mammograms, depending on age and health condition.

“Self-breast exams allow a woman to notice any changes in texture, thickness or the presence of a lump,” said Dr. Alanizi.

“These exams help report any observed changes to the doctor. But it is important to note that self-breast checks are not designed for you to diagnose anything. They are prescribed to help you know what is normal for you.

“When you begin to recognize what is normal, you will detect changes easily.”

These exams should be done by all women over the age of 20 and carried out monthly, five days after the menstrual cycle. For those who have reached menopause, do the exams on the same day every month. Breast exams can be done in front of the mirror, in the shower, or even lying down – just make sure you are in a comfortable position.

Breast tissue feels slightly firm, while the inner and lower parts of the breast feel soft. If you feel squishy or soft lumps, these are more likely to be cysts or a fibro adenoma. Cancerous lumps are irregularly shaped with a gritty surface like a golf ball. Malignant tumours will also be difficult to move.

Dr. Alanizi outlines five steps to follow for self-examination:

  • Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror, shoulders straight and arms on your hips. Look out for changes in breast shape, size and colour, visible distortion, swelling, dimpled skin, bulges in the skin, a change in the nipple position, redness, soreness or rashes.
  • Step 2: Raise your arms over your head and look out for the same changes mentioned above.
  • Step 3: Gently squeeze your nipple with your index finger and thumb to check for discharges like milky or yellow fluid or blood.
  • Step 4: Lie down on a flat surface and holding out your fingers flat and together, use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice versa. Cover the entire breast to check for lumps.
  • Step 5: Feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting – cover your whole breast with your hand and check for lumps sideways and vertically.

If you feel a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, who might suggest an ultrasound or mammogram.

“Although self-breast exams are important, they should not take the place of routine clinical breast exams and mammograms by your doctor, “Dr. Alanizi warned.

“The biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer is age. Therefore, women over the age of 40 should go for at least one mammogram every two years. Moreover, women who have a family history or who are considered high-risk may be asked by their doctor to get themselves checked more regularly,” Dr. Alanizi advises.
There are a number of things a woman can do to reduce their risk of developing cancer such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active on most, preferably all days, eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products and limiting alcohol intake.

**Please note, Thumbay Group, Gulf Medical University, and HEALTH magazine are not liable nor responsible for the facts, figures, and overall content of the press releases on our portal.

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