Amongst all body parts, breasts are perhaps the one that women are, and should be, the most conscious about. Breasts undergo changes in size, shape with age. Staying actively aware of how your breasts look and feel is the first step towards taking care of your breast health.

Know your breasts

From adolescence to menopause stage, a woman's breasts go through various changes. Along the way, some women might experience breast lumps, cysts, mastitis or painful breasts. For a woman familiar with the look and feel of her breasts, and with some basic knowledge, it becomes easier to notice abnormal changes. Noticing these changes requires regular, and deliberate self-examination. Women should conduct a self-examination of breasts from their 20s onwards, at least once a month. To learn how to self-examine, and in what situations to consult a doctor, it is always helpful to take guidance from a doctor or a trained medical practitioner.

Self-Examination
  • Observing Shape, Size, and Color: Stand in front of a mirror, with hands on hips and straight shoulders. Keenly observe the shape, color, and size of your breasts and nipples. Look for any unusual changes, any rashes, redness, swelling, scaliness or discharge. Also, observe if there is any change in the number or size of veins visible. Compare the two breasts to verify changes. Repeat the same, with hands raised above your head.
  • Feel your breasts: Both, in standing position as well as lying down with head resting on your arm, bent at the elbow, with fully stretched hand and figures, press and feel the entire area of your breasts, down from collarbone to abdomen, and including armpits. Look for any lumps, pain, dimpled or flattened areas, or anything that appears different from before.
When to see a doctor

It is normal to experience some discomfort in the breast triggered by the hormonal changes on the onset of or during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lactation, perimenopause, and postmenopause. But consult your doctor if you observe any of the following:

  • breast lumps that feel different from normal breast nodularity
  • breast cyst- a fluid-filled sac in the breast tissue
  • changes in the shape of your breast
  • changes in the color of your breast
  • discharge from nipple or pain accompanied by a lump
  • discharge is watery or bloodstained from the nipple
  • changes (inversion or pulling in) in the nipple
  • breast inflammation causing redness, heat, lumpiness, and pain
  • any persistent nipple or breast itching or rash

The importance of breast self-examination and timely doctor consultations cannot be overemphasized. Of all the known cancers, breast cancer growth rates are alarming. It is also the most common cancer found in India – disregarding age, region, financial standing, and surprisingly – even gender. Breast cancer rates are on the rise in younger women too. A recent study shows, 1 in 22 women in India develops breast cancer. Of every two women who develop breast cancer, one dies.

Staying actively aware, and seeking timely medical help, go a long way in early detection and successful treatment.

 

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