Breast health: Tips to prevent breast cancer, how to do breast self-examination | Health - Hindustan Times

Breast health: High-risk factors, tips to prevent breast cancer, how to do breast self-examination

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Oct 17, 2023 12:54 PM IST

Many women are at risk of breast cancer but timely detection and treatment improve survival rates of patients. Adhere to these breast self-care tips by expert

Breast self-awareness begins by knowing what is normal for your breasts and if you notice even small changes to the breast, nipple or underarm area then consult the doctor without any delay and follow the instructions given by him/her to take utmost care of your breasts. According to health experts, the common changes that women tend to experience when it comes to their breasts are unbearable pain that refuses to subside, a worrisome lump in the breast or underarm, constant nipple discharge including blood, breast thickening, swelling or darkening, notable changes in the breast size or shape, skin dimpling or irritation and even an itchy, scaly rash or sore in the nipple area or breast.

Breast health: High-risk factors, tips to prevent breast cancer, how to do breast self-examination (Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash)
Breast health: High-risk factors, tips to prevent breast cancer, how to do breast self-examination (Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Madhuri Burande Laha, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospital in Kharadi, shared, “You will be shocked to know that pre-menopausal women (those in their 40s and below) will witness that breast cancers are manifesting assertively. Many of these women also fail to do the mammograms as suggested by the doctor. It will be imperative for women to have knowledge about the risk factors related to breast cancer in order to seek timely intervention. Remember that you can get breast cancer even if you don’t have a family history of it due to genetic mutations. One should be aware of these risk factors.”

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High-risk factors when it comes to breast cancer:

Dr Madhuri Burande Laha revealed, “Your risk of getting breast cancer will increase as you become older. Apart from this, other factors such as menstruation before age 12, not giving birth or having a first child later in life, menopause after age 55, taking hormone replacement therapy for a long time, or having close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer can be other factors as well.”

The diagnosis:

According to Dr Madhuri Burande Laha, mammography has been the primary screening method used to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages however, recent advances in medical technology have given rise to new diagnostic tools that offer even greater precision and accuracy. She said, “One such innovation is molecular breast imaging (MBI), which utilises radioactive tracers to identify abnormal cells in the breast. Unlike mammography which relies on x-ray images, MBI can detect even the smallest tumors undetectable by other methods. This makes it particularly beneficial for women with dense breast tissue as they often pose a challenge for mammographic interpretation. In addition to MBI, liquid biopsy has emerged as another promising tool in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. Also, by regularly engaging with their breasts during self-examination, women become more familiar with their individual shape, texture, and any changes such as lumps that may occur over time.”

How to do breast self-examination?

Dr Madhuri Burande Laha instructed, “Start by standing in front of a mirror and visually inspecting your breasts for any changes in size, shape, or skin texture. Look for any visible lumps on the surface. Next, raise your arms above your head and check for any changes in the position of your nipples. Later, lie down on a firm surface and use the pads of your fingers to gently feel each breast and armpit area. Start from the outer edge and move towards the center using circular motions. Pay attention to any lump or hard knot that feels different from the rest of your breast tissue. If you notice anything unusual during a self-exam, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation as soon as possible.”

The treatment:

Highlighting that overall, the management and treatment of breast cancer require a multidisciplinary approach, Dr Madhuri Burande Laha advised, “When it comes to the treatment of breast cancer, there are several options available that are tailored to each individual's specific needs. One common approach is surgery, which can involve either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. A lumpectomy removes only the tumor and surrounding tissue, while a mastectomy removes the entire breast. Another option is radiation therapy and chemotherapy, both frequently used in the treatment of breast cancer. It is better to follow the guidelines given by the doctor only.”

Tips to prevent breast cancer:

Highlighting that being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, Dr Madhuri Burande Laha explained, “This is because excess body fat can result in higher levels of estrogen, a hormone that can stimulate the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells. To prevent this, it's important to maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Engaging in regular physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also lowers the risk of breast cancer on its own. Exercising for at least 5 days a week as doing so helps to get rid of inflammation and boosts immunity thereby preventing cancer. Also, cut down on smoking and alcohol to keep breast cancer at bay and improve your quality of life.”

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