How to detect breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon
Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon/ iStock

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Preventing cancer, or preventing the spread of cancer, can save your life. So we look at ways in which you can detect breast cancer and lifestyle changes you can make that could help prevent the disease altogether.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with millions of cases reported every year. The fund also reports that according to the World Health Organisation, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and diabetes are the causes of 80% of all deaths from NCDs worldwide. The figure is relatively high, considering that early detection of breast cancer can help beat cancer.

There are different ways in which breast cancer can be detected; self-examination, clinical examination, mammogram, and ultra sound are amongst the many methods that could be used.

The good thing about self-examination and clinical examination is that they are free, however, the mammogram and ultrasound are a bit costly.

According to, women are encouraged to examine themselves at least once every month.

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important,” reports Johns Hopkins Medical center.

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It warns women to look out for the following signs in order to detect breast cancer early:

– A sudden change in how your breast or nipple feels: If a woman feels a lump in the breast, nipple tenderness or a change in skin texture, that could be a sign that you have breast cancer and it would be best to go consult at your nearest clinic.

– A change in how your nipple or breast appears: If your nipple is turned slightly inward or inverted or you see an unexplainable change in the size or shape of the nipple, this could be a warning sign. When it comes to your breast, if there is an unexplainable change in size, dimpling or swelling, those are more warning signs. Another warning sign is when the skin of your nipple or breast becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange.

– A discharge from the nipple -This could be a clear discharge or bloody discharge.

Apart from those signs, states that a woman can examine herself by doing the following:

– “Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area.” While doing this, check for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot.

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– Stand in front of the mirror topless and inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Look out for swelling, unexplainable change in size, or dimpling of the skin.

– “When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.”

Always remember that prevention is better than cure. Though we cannot say for sure that anything you do can prevent breast cancer, the following have been reported to decrease chances of people getting breast cancer:

– Limiting alcohol and not smoking

– Maintaining a healthy weight

– Breastfeeding

– Exercise

Disclaimer: Health-related information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor on any health-related issues.

Main image courtesy of iStock/ sgursozlu