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Breast Self-examination


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Since we do not know how to prevent breast cancer, early detection increases chances for successful treatment. There are three methods to achieve this:

Breast self-examination

The examination is recommended from the age of 20 years old on a monthly basis.

Breast examination by a doctor

The examination is recommended once every 3 years between the age of 20 -40 years old. For over 40 years old, it should be done once a year.

Breast examination using Mammogram machine with Ultrasound

The examination is recommended from the age of 35 years old. For those over 40 years old, it should be done every 1 to 2 years.

It is vitally important that women perform breast self-examination. 80-90% of the breast cancer patients who came to see the doctor detected the lumps in the breasts themselves.

Simple principles for breast self-examination

Start breast self-examination from the age of 20 on a monthly basis after your period ends, as during this time your breasts are least likely to be swollen.

The method suggests that the woman stands in front of a mirror and inspects her breasts for abnormalities in several positions: with the arms hanging next to the body, arms held over head, and hands on the hips.


Things to observe when you are in front of the mirror

Observe the shape, size, skin texture and color of your breasts. If you notice any of the following abnormalities, consult your doctor immediately:

  • Visible Lump
  • Swelling, redness and warmth
  • Changes in the size or shape of your breasts
  • Dimpling or retracted nipples (if this is not the case previously)
  • The skin on the breasts has the appearance of orange peel
  • Rashes, scaling or itching around the nipple
  • Abnormal discharge from the nipple such as blood-like fluid, or pus-like fluid
  • The skin on the breast or nipples pulled inward

Breast self-examination palpation technique


Breast self-examination palpation technique uses the pads of your three fingers: index finger, middle finger and ring finger. The hand on the other side of the breast being examined is used to apply a circular motion, dragging the fingers around the breast without lifting them from its surface. The palpation needs to cover the entire breast from the nipple towards the tail and around the armpit. The palpation can take several forms of movements, such as circular spiral or zig zag (up and down motion) or radial pattern similar to the radius of the sun.


After one breast has been examined, perform the same on the other breast. If you feel a lump or if you are unsure it is a lump, do not hesitate to see your physician.

Breast cancer is a common cancer frequently found in women. It is difficult to prevent this disease. Therefore, the detection of an abnormality in its early stage, before it spreads to the other bodily tissues, gives us a better chance to treat and cure the illness.

Methods used to detect early breast cancer

There are several methods as follows:

Examination by medical experts
The doctor will palpate the breasts and around the armpits to check for any lumps or abnormal lymph node as well as other abnormalities such as skin dimpling, lymph nodes that feel harder than normal, abnormal retraction of the nipples, as well as the discharge of fluid such as pus-like fluid or bloody fluid from the nipples

This method takes x-ray of the breasts to assist the doctor in the diagnosis of breast cancer. The x-ray will show details of the abnormalities including any very tiny growth that cannot be detected by palpation of the breast, in particular in elderly women.

Studies show that the mammogram is an effective method in detecting early stage of breast cancer. Therefore women between 40-50 years old, who are in the high risk group for breast cancer, should get the examination every 1-2 years. Women who are over 50 years old are in the higher risk group and they should get the examination every year.

  • Mammogram should be performed after the menstrual period
  • During the x-ray process, the breast is compressed firmly against the film in order to get the clearest picture, so you will feel some soreness in the breast
  • Mammogram can detect growths which cannot be detected by palpating the breast, however there may be only 10% of the lumps that you can feel by palpating which cannot be seen in the x-ray

Ultrasound of the breast
Today, combining mammogram with ultrasound is common for examining and diagnosing breast cancer.

  • Ultrasound can diagnose if the lump is a fluid filled sac or muscle growth
  • Ultrasound is suitable for patients with small breasts or patients during their childbearing period (with heavy breasts or breasts full of mammary glands) and patients with augmented breasts
  • Ultrasound is suitable for pregnant women who want to avoid x-ray radiation

The use of Ultrasound in conjunction with Mammogram to detect breast cancer will result in a much more accurate diagnosis.

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