Significance of self screening in early detection of Breast Cancer explained by Dr Chandrani Mallik

Updated on Oct 15, 2020 03:23 PM IST  |  798.6K
Breast Cancer,cancer,Health & Fitness,women's health
Significance of self screening in early detection of Breast Cancer explained by Dr Chandrani Mallik

Breast Cancer is a global health concern which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among women. Breast self-exams are a useful screening tool in early diagnosis when performed regularly in combination with physical exams by a doctor, mammogram and ultrasounds. Each of these screening tools works in different ways and has its own strengths and weaknesses. The earlier cancer is detected, the chances for treatment and survival is higher. Self-examination is an easy way to understand your body and identify when something might not be right. 

Practising monthly breast self-examination can help in detecting abnormalities or changes that may designate cancer. Before menopause, performing out a check at the same stage of the menstrual cycle each month can help in spotting any unusual features. Knowing how to spot the signs and detect changes can play an important role in prevention and also early detection leading to an increase in the chance of surviving breast cancer.


Most of the patients with breast cancer have no family history but include risk factors like late marriage and kids, no breastfeeding, early menses, late menopause, alcohol, smoking, obesity, high fat diet and physical inactivity. 

There are several different areas of the breasts. The upper and outer area (which is near the underarm) tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. Different parts of breasts have different textures and densities. Knowing what they feel like will help in determining when something feels different.

Hormone levels fluctuate every month during the menstrual cycle, which causes changes in the breast tissue. While menstruating, it is essential to choose a time during the cycle when the breasts are felt least tender. Swelling begins to decrease when your period starts. The best time to self-examine breasts is usually the week after the menstrual cycle ends.

Begin with a visual examination of your breasts. Sit or stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. To inspect your breasts visually, do the following:

• Face forward and look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in size, shape or symmetry.

• Check to see if your nipples are turned in (inverted).

• Inspect your breasts with your hands pressed down on your hips.

• Inspect your breasts with your arms raised overhead and the palms of your hands pressed together.

• Lift your breasts to see if ridges along the bottom are proportionate.

The outcome of the self-breast examination:

Signs of normal breasts 

Many women find lumps or changes in their breasts since some of these are normal changes that occur at various points in the menstrual cycles. Finding a change or lump in the breast is not a reason to panic. Breasts often feel different in different places. A firm ridge along the bottom of each breast is normal and the look and feel of the breasts also change as one ages.

Signs of abnormal breast and time to schedule an appointment with the doctor if you notice:

• A hard lump or knot near the underarm region.

• Changes in the way the breasts look or feel including thickening or prominent fullness that is different from the surrounding tissue.

• Dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin of the breast.

• Recent change in a nipple that is pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out.

• Redness, warmth, swelling or pain.

• Itching, scales, sores or rashes.

• Bloody nipple discharge.

Breast self-exam is a suitable, no-cost tool that a woman can use on a regular basis and at any age. It is suggested that all women routinely perform breast self-exams as part of their overall breast cancer screening plan. Your aim is to get used to the feel of your breasts. This will help in finding anything new or different. If you do find something different, reach out to your healthcare provider right away, do not shy away.

Authored by Dr Chandrani Mallik, Consultant, Medical Oncology, HCG EKO Cancer Centre.

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