By: Azuka C. Onye (MPA, MS)
Breast cancer has become an increasing problem not only in the United States but in many countries in Africa as well. According to the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, the percentage of women in Nigeria with this breast cancer continues to rise. It is true that breast cancer is more common in white women; however, black women are more likely to succumb to the illness. This may stem from a lack of access to adequate health care, but also from a lack of knowledge about the disease. Finding a lump in your breast early can save your life. Below are a few things you should know about your breasts and tips on giving yourself an at home breast exam.
- Your breasts usually begin at rib 2 and continue down to rib 6.
- The size of a woman’s breast can vary depending on her weight and genetic factors.
- Your breasts are surrounded by lymph nodes (pectoral, axilla, supraclavicular), which makes it easier for breast cancer to metastasize or spread to other parts of your body. This is why doing a self-breast exam to check for lumps is so critical.
Some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer include:
- Postmenopausal obesity because of increased estrogen levels
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
- Birth control
- Increased breast density/fatty tissue
- Family history and age
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Black women are more likely to get breast cancer at a younger age.
When examining your breast at home:
1. To examine the RIGHT breast lie down. Place your RIGHT arm behind your head.
2. Palpate your RIGHT breast with the pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand.
3. Repeat the same procedure for the LEFT breast.
4. In the shower you can examine your breast by lifting your arm and using the opposite arm to palpate for any lumps.
5. Finally, stand in the mirror with your arms at your sides and then on your hip.
- Fibroadenomas are benign breasts masses that you or your doctor may find during a breast exam. Further testing will confirm the diagnosis. They are usually firm, rubbery and non-tender. They are also more common in women ages 15-25 years of age.
- When at the doctor’s office be honest and give your complete medical, family and history.
- If your doctor finds something suspicious follow up. Make sure that you go for the mammogram, ultrasound or whatever procedure is necessary to confirm or rule out your doctor’s suspicions.
Below are some links to more information about breast cancer and your health: