Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in Hong Kong. Most women are only able to go in for health check-ups once a year. A lot can happen in between those annual check-ups, while early diagnosis of breast cancer increases the treatment options and the chance of recovery. Breast Self Examinations (BSE) can help you get to know your body and discover any abnormalities as soon as possible. blüüm will be sharing how to perform a self-breast check-up and detect any early warning signs of breast cancer.
A breast self-exam is the first step to screening that is free and easy to perform at home. While it cannot detect breast cancer right away, it helps you to notice any changes on a regular basis before you have the need of clinical exams and mammograms.
Stand or sit in front of a mirror with your arms by your sides. Visually inspect your breasts to see if they are their usual size, shape and colour. Check also if they are evenly shaped with no swelling. Repeat the process with arms raised and then with palms pressed together in front. Next, place your hands at your hips to flex your chest muscles and inspect any differences between the left and right breast. Breasts are not symmetrical by nature so look for changes occurring particularly on one side.
When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly making it easier to examine. Lay down on your back and raise the arm of the side of the breast you would like to examine first. Use your opposite hand to inspect your breast. Keep your fingers together and use the pads of your fingers to feel your breast for lumps and abnormalities. Work around your breast in small circular motions with a firm touch and repeat on the other side. Make sure you cover the whole breast and the area surrounding the breast.
Examining your breast in the shower is easier as your skin is slippery. Lather your hands with soap and examine your breasts with the same technique as when lying down. Check both sides for symptoms like lumps, thickening, knots or any other changes. Examine the entire breast and the armpit area next to the breast.
Consider calling your doctor if you come across the following symptoms:
The internet can only give you so much information. If you have questions or are still unsure of how to perform a breast self check-up, consider seeking help from your doctor. It may be useful for you to discuss the techniques and what to look for with your doctor.
The more you examine your breasts, the more you will get to know them and it will be easier to notice any changes. A self-breast check-up every month is a great habit to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally are.
Hormonal levels change during menstrual cycles. Your breasts may experience slight swelling. It is better to perform the breast self-exam a week after your period.
Not all lumps are problematic and most women have some lumpy areas. It is also normal for small lumps to come and go during the menstrual cycle. Take note of any lumps to help you get a better perception of what is normal for your breasts.
General health check-ups are usually recommended to be done on an annual basis. As for breast screening, Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation recommends the following frequencies:
• Clinical breast exam once every 3 years for age 20-39 and every 2 years for age over 40
• Mammograms once every 2 years for age over 40
High-risk groups may also require more frequent check-ups. The Cancer Expert Working Group suggests the following groups to go through more frequent breast cancer screening.
• Confirmed carrier or with family history of certain gene mutations (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2)
• Family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, especially with first-degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50
• Personal risk factors such as history of receiving radiation therapy to the chest before age 30, history of breast cancer or benign breast conditions
Designed for women in Hong Kong, blüüm woman includes two insurance plans, including Cigna HealthFirst Elite Medical Plan and Cigna HealthSecure Lady Care Plan, providing protection against the costs associated with hospitalization, pregnancy, psychiatric treatment or critical illness. They both offer free annual check-up which is essential to detecting any potential health risks at an early stage. Along with one-stop health management services through our app, women can take care of both physical and mental wellbeing at anytime. Learn more about blüüm woman here.
Information provided in this article is for reference only, and should not be treated as medical advice. Users should seek personal medical advice from a physician.
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