My spooky awakening of last month during my medical ward rotations was breast cancer. This cancer is the most common one among Kenyan women, with about 47,000 cases and 33,000 deaths annually. Even though October is over, we still need to be aware of breast cancer everyday. This is only possible by getting to know our bodies; breasts in this case, making it easier to notice the little changes that may have negative effects.
A breast self-exam should be done monthly, preferably 7-10 days after menstrual period when the breasts are less tender and lumpy. What you need for a breast self-exam is a mirror and pads of your three middle fingers. Below are the steps of breast self-exam you should follow;
Step 1: Observe your breasts
Stand or sit in front of a mirror with your garments off, and take your time in observing your breasts. Note the size, shape, skin colour and any indentions of both breasts.
Step 2: Put your arms akimbo and pull your elbows forward
Look out for the same changes as in the first step, slouching with your elbows forward might make lumps that aren’t visible in a normal posture noted. Swivel from side to side to observe any existing lumps, indentions or abnormal skin colour.
Step 3: Rest your arm behind your head and use the pads of your three middle fingers to feel your breasts in circular motions
Avoid using fingertips as they may exaggerate the details felt. While feeling for lumps, also watch out for any noticeable discharge from the nipples. Carry out this step lying down and standing or sitting up.
Note that a self exam will not prove your abnormal findings to be breast cancer but it will further compliment diagnostic tests like mammograms. Have a breast self-exam frequently to connect with your body, and relax, 80% of the lumps are benign.