Breast Cancer 101

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the breast form the breast tissue or around it. The very obvious sign of breast cancer will be a lump in the breast, under it or near the armpits. The other symptoms include a change in the shape of the breast, heavy dimples on the skin, yellow fluid and blood secreting from the nipple, a red or a scaly patch.

The chances that you might get breast cancer is high if you are a female, are obese, drink alcohol, lack physical exercise, etc. Around 5-10% of cases are because of genetic factors that were inherited from the individuals parents. 

By performing self-breast examination one can make sure if they are free of the symptoms or not. The examination should be considered as a priority if any abnormality is discovered at any point in a person’s life. But having one or two of the symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. 

Causes of Breast Cancer

  • Genetic Factors- Race, Gender, Age, Health history, certain changes in Genomes, etc.
  • Environmental Factors- Radiation to the chest, Densely polluted cities, etc.
  • Lifestyle Factors- Poor dietary practices, Consumption of alcohol, Smoking, and overweight issues. 

A more detailed list of symptoms are:

  • A change in the way the breast or the nipple feels. If the nipple feels tender than usual or if you feel a slight bump and thickening of the skin near the breast or the underarm area you may consider checking with your doctor. 
  • A change in the texture of the skin with an additional enlargement of pores on the breast which may as per review feel similar to the texture of an orange peel. 
  • A change in the appearance of the breast or the nipple. Keeping in account of any sudden unexplained change in the form of the breast, dimpling anywhere near or on the breast, mysterious one sided swelling of the breast, current asymmetry of the breasts, a sudden nipple inversion and lastly scaling, redness and swelling on the area of the breast- focused near the areola and the nipple.
  • Any unprecedented discharge from the nipples. If you find yourself troubled by a discharge that is either clear or bloody it is immediately to be examined by a doctor. Even an unreal amount of milky discharge of a mother when not breastfeeding is supposed to be checked. 

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Checking for Breast cancer:

Breast cancer cannot be avoided but it can be prevented from developing into its life-threatening form if you are able to check and identify the symptoms early. Every adult woman from all walks of life should perform a self-examination of their breasts and it is recommended that they do this at least once every month of the year. 

More than 50% of the individuals detect breast cancer after self-examination and the importance of that cannot be mentioned enough. Mammograms that are a breast examining contraption, are used in medical institutions to detect cancer before the formation of any lumps. But performing self-examinations on the breast which is a more intimate practice will help you get familiar with the way your breasts feel and look. This will enable you to report any changes to your doctor. 

How to perform a Self-Breast Exam?

  • When in the shower: By placing your fingers on your breast use them to move around on the entire area of the breast in a circular motion starting from the outside to the nipple. Doing this for both the breasts simultaneously is recommended. Do the same for underneath the breast and in the armpit area as well to check for lumps, thickening or any hardened knots. 
  • While lying down: When one lies down, the breast tissues expand out equally along the chest wall. To examine your breast locate a pillow exactly under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Now using the left hand, begin examining the right breast with your fingers by moving it in a circular motion starting from the outside and moving towards the nipple. This exam should span out over the whole region including the armpits. The pressure on the surface of the breast should be firm, light and smooth. Pinch the nipple to inspect for any lump or discharge. Do the same for the left breast as well.
  • While facing a mirror: Examining your breasts in front of the mirror gives a better view of the process. It will help you examine your breasts thoroughly. While in front of the mirror, the first step to this is that you raise both your arms and notice for any changes in the shape or size of each breast. Look out for changes like swelling, contouring, skin dimpling or any alteration. Next you can put both your arms on your hips to arch your back and tighten your chest muscles. Your right and the left breast may not be proportionate, which is normal. A few women do have an equal ratio for the breast but this being aside one should still look for swelling, flaking, lumps or any change in either of the breasts. 

What to do after you do a self-examination?

First and foremost you should not panic. Many a time any lump or changes in the breasts may not necessarily indicate cancer but most of such lumps are non-malignant in nature. Note down all the changes that you find during the examination. Get an appointment to the doctor and make sure you do not hesitate to tell him or her about everything you noticed. You can go to your gynecologist, a general physician or a nurse who works with the gynecologist. 

How to reduce the risk of getting Breast Cancer?

In Spite of the fact that any form of cancer cannot be averted but a few healthy practices can help you minimise the risk of getting cancer. 

They are:

  • Do not smoke or if you do, abstain from doing so. 
  • Eat green vegetables and fresh fruits on a daily basis.
  • Exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy life. 
  • Limiting or refraining from the ingestion of alcohol. 
  • Being physically active in order to stay fit and healthy. 

Considering these options to maintain a wholesome and healthy life will not just help you win a fight against cancer but will ensure that you and your family stay safe against an end number of ailments that exist around us. 

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Natasha Patel

Natasha Patel is the senior writer for the women’s health edition at She worked as a primary care provider before joining the writer’s panel of the blog. She is also trained in routine obstetrics and continues to practice in Oklahoma, where she lives with her family.