Breast cancer screening is used to detect cancer signs early and provide treatment on time. The most accessible way is self-breast examination, where a woman examines all sides of her breasts for swellings and any other changes. Mammogram, which is commonly used for screening in some countries, is not readily available in Nigeria.
A key part of breast examination is breast self-awareness where you know how your breast looks and feels to help you identify changes early.
Simple self-breast examination involves first looking at your breasts for any changes in shape and size with both hands raised and by your side, and then examining each breast up to your armpit and then your collarbone. You can examine your breasts in one of three ways:
- Circular method: To use this method, move your fingers in small circles around your breast toward your nipple. You do this for one breast at a time.
- Wheels and spokes method: With this method, imagine your breast as a wheel and the nipple as the point where the spokes attach. Examine every area of your breast beginning at the outermost point and working your way towards the nipple. Do this for each area till the entire breast is examined.
- Grid method: Place your fingertips flat on your breast and press firmly and gently from top to bottom until all areas of the breast have been examined.
You can choose whichever method you’re comfortable with, and you can examine your breasts standing up, lying down, or in the shower. Self-breast examination can detect cancer early. If you notice changes in your breast that you are not sure of, see a doctor or nurse early for further examination.
A mammogram is an imaging technique used to detect breast cancer early. This imaging technique helps health professionals to see irregularities in the breast tissue and then conduct more investigations to find out whether the irregularities are due to breast cancer or not.
In many countries, including the UK and the U.S., women aged 50-74 are invited for mammogram tests every 2-3 years, while women aged 40-49 would be offered mammogram tests based on risk-benefit assessment by their healthcare provider.
Mammogram is not ideal in younger women because they tend to have denser breasts, and this makes it difficult for the mammogram to detect changes easily. An ultrasound scan may be preferred in younger women.
Breast cancer screening is an effective way to detect changes in the breast tissue early and find a suitable medical intervention. It is important to speak with your doctor about your risks of breast cancer and attend routine screening. Also remember, self-breast examination can help detect breast cancer early, so examine your breasts regularly.