Food & Drinks

Be breast aware

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – know what symptoms to look out for, how to self-examine, and understand what to expect if you need to visit your doctor, with our handy guide…

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month upon us, inspiring stories from survivors and advice from doctors should act as a reminder for women to not only self-examine regularly, but to also keep a close eye on the tell-tale signs that can often signal the disease.

Connector reveals the changes to look out for, as well as the best ways to examine yourself.

Symptoms and Signs
The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better the chances of making a full recovery, so it’s vital that you get to know your body, which will make it easier to detect changes. If you’ve been suffering from a pain in your breast, or noticed a change in size or shape, you should see your doctor immediately. When it comes to lumps that feel different from normal breast tissue or are around the collarbone or armpit consult your physician so they can carry out a biopsy to determine whether it is cancerous or benign. Also take a look at the skin on and around the breast for changes in texture such as puckering or dimpling – something that might resemble the skin of an orange – as well as a redness or rash, especially around the nipple. Changes to the nipples can also signal breast cancer, including if it becomes inverted, changes position or shape, or secretes a liquid without being squeezed. These are the main indicators of breast cancer, with doctors’ advising that tiredness, weight loss and lack of energy are not signs of the disease.

How To Self-Examine
The best way to gauge changes to the size or shape of the breast is to stand facing a mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. From there, raise both arms and once again look for the changes mentioned above. Then lay down on a flat surface (a bed or sofa) and feel your breasts using a firm touch using your fore, middle and ring fingers and keeping them flat. To be sure of checking the full breast, work in a circular motion and check not only the breast, but also from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen and from the armpit across to your cleavage. Check both sides. Pressure-wise, experts recommend using a light pressure for beneath the breast; medium pressure for the middle and firm pressure to reach the deep tissue, at which point you should feel your ribcage. Finally, check your breasts while you are standing in the shower, with slippery, wet skin often easier
to feel.

What Happens At Your Doctors?
According to the most recent UAE statistics, deaths from breast cancer have declined from 8.7 per 100,000 women in 2009 to five per 100,000 women in 2014, with late detection of the disease reduced from 64 per cent to 16 per cent over the same period. The message however, remains the same – the early the detection, the better your chances at beating the disease. If you need to visit your doctor owing to changes in your breast, they will initially carry out their own examination. If they want to carry out further examinations, you will be booked in for a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. Your physician may then want a biopsy, which will determine if you have breast cancer. Because many women don’t experience any symptoms with breast cancer, it is important to get screened, with women aged 40-54 advised to be screened annually. Over the age of 55, doctors recommend mammograms every 
two years.