Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women. On an average 83,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Pakistan. This is an alarming situation. The study shows that 1 in every 8 Pakistani women have a chance of developing cancer at one point in her life. The reason is lack of knowledge, obesity, unhygienic conditions during breast-feeding and ignorance. Similarly the ratio of breast cancer among young girls is also increasing due to poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. However compared to other types of cancer, breast cancer is not fatal and has 90% of recovery only if it can be detected in early stages.
The increase in cases of breast cancer is due to socio-economic conditions in Pakistan. Most women are not aware about the symptoms of breast cancer and even if they do suspect something, they avoid discussing it. In most areas this topic is not conveyed because of our traditional culture and gender prejudice. Moreover most hospitals lack machinery to diagnoses breast cancer. Hence mostly poor women are dying as they cannot afford the treatment. Even those who can afford the treatment are shy or hesitant to go for any kind of breast examination.
Most important step to prevention is to be aware. It is vital for every women and young adult to get regular medical check-ups. They can be breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination (CBE) or mammograms (X-rays of the breasts). Furthermore, it is suggested that women should exercise daily for at least 30 mins, maintain a balanced diet, avoid tobacco, drugs and hormone replacement therapies.
The most common and easy method is BSE. It does not require professional help and can be conducted by every individual. A simple step by step method of breast self-examination is:-
Step 1:Start by making your shoulders straight and placing your arms on your hips and look at your breasts in the mirror. You should be focusing on any changes in breast shape, colour, size, any swellings, changes in nipples shape (inverted), pain or redness.
Step 2:Then you should raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step 3:Then closely look at your breasts for any signs of fluid coming out of either one of the nipples. It could be blood, milky, yellow or watery fluid.
Step 4:Afterwards lie down and feel your right breast using left hand and then feel your left breast using right hand. The touch should be firm and smooth by keeping fingers flat and together. You should massage in a circular motion, moving in large circles starting from your nipple to the outer edge of your breast. Moreover you must also pinch your nipples between thumb and index finger for any secretions.
Step 5:Lastly, also feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting.
In this way one may detect any signs or lumps which can be cancerous or not. Hence it is important to get a mammogram screening later as well. Moreover BSE also provides a sense of empowerment to women that they can take an active part in taking care of their own health. One should also keep in mind that men can also get breast cancer, though rare but possible.
Written By – Ashna Mehmood