October 25, 2010 – The breast, a modified sweat gland is one of the most referred to part of the body. Babies love it for its constant supply of nutritious and delicious food. The men of course get attached to it to adulthood as it becomes a sex object. The ladies regard it as a symbol of beauty and surgeons are smiling all the way to the bank, thanks to the increasing demand for breast augmentation. Much as the breast becomes a source of joy, love, food, romance, it requires special attention in terms of health and care and is often neglected. This means it becomes a source of pain instead.
Self Breast Examination ( SBE)
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends performing clinical breast examination in women aged 20 to 40 years and annually for those over 40 yrs. The society no longer recommends monthly SBE as it does not improve detection of cancer but this can be used for self awareness. To perform a proper examination, follow the following steps;
1. Unclothe to the waist and sit upright on a well-illuminated chair or the side of a bed. Have a mirror to use for inspection.
2. Rest your hands on the thighs to relax the pectoral (chest) muscles then inspect the breasts for any: asymmetry, skin color or swelling, prominent blood vessels and nipple deviation. Enlargement of male breast can easily be noted here.
3. Press your hands firmly on the hips to contract the pectoral muscles and repeat the inspection.
4. Now raise your arms above the head and then lean forward to expose the whole breast and exacerbate skin dimpling.
5. Alternatively lie with your head on one pillow and your hand under the head on the side to be examined. You must do this to examine both breasts. The right breasts should be examined by the left hand and vise versa.
6. With the palm of your middle three fingers flat on the skin, palpate the breast tissue, using rotatory movements, compressing it firmly against the chest wall. In larger breasts, use one hand to the lower border to steady the breast while examining with other. Total examination area includes these borders; upper -collar bone, inner-sternum bone, outer-line drawn downwards at mid armpit and lower border – bra line or in some abdominal border. While doing this, imagine the breast as a clock face. Examine each ‘hour of the clock’ from the outside towards the nipple, including under the nipple.
7. The breast has a tail-end that leads to the maxilla (armpit). Examine this tail between your finger and thumb.
8. Hold the nipples gently between your index finger and thumb and attempt to express any discharge or massage the breast towards the nipple to uncover any discharge noting any color and consistency.
9. Finally, since the breast is surrounded by lymph nodes that fight any infections and or tumor cells from it, remember to examine the nodes located in the upper border of the collar bone and arm pit. While sited or lying down, palpate the nodes following the above procedure of left hand-right nodes, and right hand-left nodes. Compress them against the chest wall looking for any size changes, consistency and how mobile and painful the nodes may be.