In a country where the healthcare system is in shambles, it is hard to find accurate figures on breast cancer in Pakistan. A news report from 2017 stated that there was 90,000 diagnosed cases of breast cancer in Pakistan, out of these 40,000 prove to be fatal. According to the same news report Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia. I read this news report over and again and I could not shake the thought of undiagnosed cases from my head. The actual figure is obviously much higher, killing possibly thousands more than reported each year.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), where international charities and organizations come together to not only increase awareness of breast cancer but also raise funds for research into cause and prevention. If you are a woman aged 40 or over, you should consider booking yourself in for a routine mammogram.
Though the chances of breast cancer in teens and women in their 20’s and 30’s are slim, one can never be too cautious when it comes to breast cancer. There are certain signs and symptoms which can be symptomatic of breast cancer, however only an oncologist can tell you whether something is out of the ordinary or not.
In order to be aware of any changes in your breasts, you have to be observant- acquaint yourself with your body so that any changes that may occur are noticeable.
Physical changes to look out for:
- A change in the size or shape of your breast(s).
- Any lumps, big or small that have appeared.
- Dimpling of skin around your nipple.
- Fluid discharge from nipple.
- Inversion of nipple.
- Swelling, itchiness or redness of nipple, breast or areola.
- Long term pain in breast(s), not associated with menstrual cycle.
- At times, changes are not as visible or noticeable, but if you feel something isn’t quite right, then you can always perform a ‘self-exam’ on your breasts to rule our any irregularities.
- In order to perform your breast exam, make sure that after removing your clothes, you wash and dry your hands.
- Flatten out your fingers and using the pads of your fingers, move them around in a circular motion, staring outwards and moving inwards.
- Do this slowly and patiently.
- Look out for any changes such as lumps, knots or even thickening of the skin in certain areas.
- Apply pressure on your nipples to see if there is any discharge.
- Perform this exam on both breasts, starting from the armpit area and moving inwards.
- Always make a written note of any changes noticed so that you can consult your doctor about it.
A self exam can be performed at any point you feel there are changes. However, make this a regular exam. Write down any peculiarities and changes you notice. Your self-exam is not a test for breast cancer! If anything feels amiss or out of the ordinary, you should always see your doctor. Sometimes the cancer is well below the tissue and can only be caught with the use of an ultra sound or a mammogram. If you are over 40 years old, you should get a mammogram. If you are over 45 years old, you should get one every year.