Statistics reveal that every year 5,00,000 people become victim to breast cancer and ultimately succumb to their condition, the ratio being more common among women. It is the second most common kind of cancer to afflict humans, the first being lung cancer. Who knows, the next in queue might be one of us. Although there are no external signs of breast cancer, still being a little alert and with a little precaution, you can do a lot in keeping this fatal disease at bay. Doctors all over the world believe that if detected at an early stage, breast cancer can be easily treated and completely cured and can also be conveniently restricted from spreading further. Here are some ‘do it yourself’ strategies which you can take up to identify this disease.
Lumps in the breast
One of the most common and initial signs of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast which can be easily felt by you. It might be painless, hard, and contain uneven edges. The appearance of these signs are a clear indication of breast cancer. However, sometimes cancer lumps can be tender, soft, and rounded as well. So, the mantra is to get any unusual and strange looking thing appearing on your breast, examined by your doctor.
Changes in the nipples’ appearance
A person infected by breast cancer may show up signs of tenderness on the nipples. There might be obvious alterations in how the breasts or nipples appear. While self examining, you may notice a swelling of the skin on the breast or nipple or appear rough and bumpy. There might be changes in the shape and size of the breast as well. To keep checking on these symptoms, it is mandatory to undergo a self-examination every month, all by yourself, right from the age of 20 years. This can be done by standing in front of the mirror with raised arms, high above the head and check out for any changes in the contour of each breast such as a dimple on the skin of the breast, nipples may appear as turned inward. Any unusual nipple discharge may also be a sign of breast cancer.
Changes in how the nipples feel
To enable early detection of breast cancer, it is very important for you to know the look and feel of your breasts and its various neighborhoods. If you feel anything standing out differently from the rest of the region, which gives the feel of a rock on a sandy beach, this could be a call for an emergency. Also, notice for any prominent changes like tenderness or thickening on the skin of your breasts or near the underarms. If you find any such difference in your body, bring it to the attention of your doctor as soon as possible especially if it has lasted over a full month’s cycle or has gotten worse or more obvious over time.
Any kind of pain or itchiness
If you have started feeling a pain or itchiness in the area around your nipples off late, due to the occurrence of a rash on the entire breast or small patches all over your breast region, or otherwise, this is definitely not a very positive sign. This might even change the texture of the skin on your breast and make it appear more bumpy and rough like an orange. All these symptoms denote that an immediate consultation with your doctor is a must to prevent worsening of the situation in the near future.
Cellulite on the breast
If you happen to notice any cellulite appearing on the surface of your breast, it might be due to breast cancer. Also, enlarged lymph nodes appearing especially around the armpit may also display signs of breast cancer. Remember, breast tissues are spread all over the region right from the nipples to under the armpit. You should always examine closely by placing your fingers flat on each and every part of your breast by adapting to circular motions covering the whole breast region. Keep a check on any obvious changes since your last examination, like the development of a lump, knot or thick tissue, etc. Precaution is definitely better than cure, and in this case, an early detection can save your very life!
Maintain a chart which measures your weight every month. If you notice any sudden fall in your weight over a span of a few months, which might appear strange to you, you should report this to your physician immediately. Breast cancer can lead to sudden weight loss over a short period of time which definitely can raise suspicion regarding your health. Although there might be other reasons for weight loss as well, but it is better to be sure rather than living in a state of doubt and tension by getting yourself checked thoroughly.
If you happen to be the one who has started with your monthly periods before the age of 12, or if you are going through menopause, or have a family history of blood-related members who have had breast cancer in the past, then you are more likely to develop breast cancer. In such situations you should take extra precautions while carrying out your self-examinations. Also, if you notice any kind of vaginal pain, other than during your menstrual cycle, it should not be taken lightly. Any unusual pain or irritation experienced should be immediately taken for further examination.
Difference in size of the breasts
A very easy way to determine whether you have breast cancer is when you notice that one of your breasts appear to be larger than the other one. This might not necessarily be accompanied by any kind of pain in the breasts. The difference in size can be easily ascertained by looking at yourself in the mirror and raising your arms by turning sideways, and by looking from each side. Judge for yourself whether both breasts look the same, or is there a difference in size or shape. This happens when growth in the tissue covering the dense breast tissue starts pushing out the proportion of the breast without causing a prominent lump. Look out and be alert for this sign.
Upper back pain
Spine specialists always keep a close check on the presence of tumors in this region because some women experience back pain before noticing any other sign of breast cancer. The pain which centers around the upper back region between the blades of the shoulder should not be misguided and concluded as due to soreness in the muscles, a pulled tendon or ligament, or due to osteoarthritis in the spine.This happens because many times breast tumors develop in the breasts’ glandular tissue, which spreads deep into the chest, close to its wall. If tumor growth results in pushing backward toward the ribs and spine, the pain may be felt in the back instead of the breast, thereby leading to metastasizing or spreading to the spine or ribs and taking the shape of secondary bone cancer.