We should know our bodies – every curve, indentation, lump and bump. And we should know our breasts intimately, so if there was ever any change or something just wasn’t right, we would seek medical advice.A breast self-examination should be done regularly. No one knows our breasts like we do so checking them monthly is that first basic step in early detection. According to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), breast cancer is the most common cancer for women contributing over 25% of new cancer cases for the year. Survival rates are improving mainly due to improved treatment, improved awareness and most importantly – early detection.
What Are The Signs To Look Out For?
- A lump or mass in the breast or underarm – usually painless, hard and of an irregular shape. It can also be tender, soft and rounded which is why getting checked by a doctor is so important. Lumps can be detected by a mammogram before they can be seen or felt.
- Painful breasts – not the usual pre-menstrual soreness, but something out of the ordinary
- Swelling in the armpit and any part of the breast
- Change in size, texture, contour or temperature of the breast – if the skin of your breast turns red and pitted, seek medical advice immediately
- If your breast flattens or has any indentation – a sign that there’s a tumour which may not be noticeable to touch
- Any change in the nipple – dimpling, scaly rash, nipple retraction (turning inward), itchiness, burning
- Discharge from nipple – could be clear, bloody or any colour; unless it’s breast milk, get it checked
- Any part of the breast that just doesn’t feel right
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or collarbone – be aware of these as they may be felt before the lump in the breast is large enough to be felt
We spoke to Dr. Zuraini Abd. Hamid who specialises obstetrics and gynaecology at the Kedah Medical Centre to find out about self-examinations and how important they are, whether Malaysian women are as aware as they should be and if our modern lifestyles affect cancer rates.
In your opinion, how important are breast self-examinations in the detection of breast cancer?
Examining your breasts at home is a useful strategy for detecting breast cancer early, so that outcomes are better and less aggressive treatment is necessary. Cancer develops in stages and as it progresses, it spreads to other parts of the body making it more difficult to treat. Screening tools like mammograms and breast exams help catch cancer in the earlier stages when treatment is more likely to be successful.
Are women in Malaysia as aware as they should be about mammograms and self-examinations or is it still a taboo subject? And, how would you convince them otherwise?
Yes, there’s still controversy among Malaysian women about that. Screening tests find breast cancer in its early stages, before any symptoms appear. We’ve had breast cancer patients whose tumours were not detected with mammography, and would have been missed if a clinical breast examination (CBE) had not been performed. Carried out by a trained doctor, CBE is important for detection and is a very low-cost test. If a patient shows any symptoms, a CBE should be performed it should be part of routine periodic examinations for moderate-to-high risk women and for those who have had cancer.Do you think that the modern woman's lifestyle has affected cancer rates in general?
Yes. Even though genetics play a role, your lifestyle has a big impact too, e.g. an unhealthy diet high in processed food, being overweight and obese, alcohol consumption, smoking, less breastfeeding and getting pregnant later in life.Why are survival rates improving?
The earlier cancer is detected, the better the survival rate. People are more aware of breast cancer, the signs and symptoms, more conscious about leading a healthy life and eating better and more inclined to seek medical attention should they suspect something.Would you recommend genetic testing?
Some health practitioners may recommend genetic testing (looks for changes in genes, chromosomes and proteins) – it’s just a simple blood draw. If you have a family member with a gene linked to breast cancer, discuss this with your doctor.
While it will not take up a lot of your time, being aware of the signs and changes in your body may help save your life through early detection. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, XIXILI is encouraging women to love and take care of their bodies.
Pink Scavenger Hunt with XIXILI
Become a Pink Detective with XIXILI from now till October 30th and find the Glittering Ribbons on the iconic Pink Ribbon dress, which will be on display at five boutiques in MidValley Megamall, IOI City Mall, Pavilion KL, One Utama and Sunway Pyramid. Get the answer, take a creative photo and post it on Facebook or Instagram for a chance to win great prizes!
Also enjoy a 10% discount on all online purchases made in October! All you have to do is enter the promo code PINKHUNT at checkout, and get gorgeous lingerie sent straight to your doorstep.
Also for this month, XIXILI will contribute RM5 to the Breast Cancer Welfare Association (BCWA) for every pink bra sold. It’s time to wear pink for a great cause!