Consisting of more than a third of all cases, the type of cancer that most affects women throughout the world is breast cáncer.
This type of cancer is that which most progress has been made in regard to diagnostic and secondary prevention measures and is why both in Colombia, as well as in the majority of countries, control mechanisms of been established to reduce its impact.
In order to bring awareness to these early detection efforts, October 19 has been declared International Breast Cancer Awareness Day, which is why different awareness activities and campaigns will take place throughout the month.
The principal method for detecting the early presence of this type of cancer is by getting a mammogram. According to the recommendations of the American College of Radiology, mammograms should be done annually after a woman turns 40. This exam is the most reliable method to detect abnormalities that may not be observed clinically, to detect palpable masses and to identify possible irregularities in the breast or under the arm.
Clinical pathologist specialist, Jorge Raad, also explains that from when women are young, “…it is crucial to perform a self-exam in order to become familiar with your breasts and be able to detect any abnormalities that may occur at any time.”
This is an exam that only needs to be done once a month, one week after menstruating, and will only take five minutes of your time. Profamilia has shared the following step-by-step process for performing the self-exam.
Stand in front of a mirror, and twist your torso from right to left a few times and inspect both breasts for dimples, changes to the nipple or scaly skin around the nipple (areola).
Place your hands behind your head and put pressure on it. Move your elbows up and forwards and see if any indentations or lumps appear in any part of the breast.
Do the same while placing your hands on your head while pressing down and inwards.
Lift up your left arm and examine your left breast with your right hand. Move your fingers in a circular motion over your entire breast. Don’t forget to also press on your nipple, your areola and under your arm. Follow this same procedure with your right breast, using your left hand to do the exam.
The last step of the exam is to gently squeeze your nipples between your index and thumb fingers. If you detect any secretions in one of your breasts when doing this, see your doctor immediately.
Doctors recommend doing steps four and five while laying down. Lay down facing up with a pillow or folded towel underneath your shoulder. Lift up your arm and place it above your head. This position distributes the breast tissue and allows for small tumors to be better detected. With your right hand press around your left breast and vice versa.
Seeing your gynecologist regularly is also a key step to diagnosing this disease and to getting a better prognosis for it.
In Latin America, 27% of all forms of cancers that occur in women are found in the breast. In Colombia specifically, this percentage raises to 33%.
Of those who have been diagnosed with this disease, only 10% of these cases are hereditary.