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 9 Pakistani women have a tendency of developing breast 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 is detected in the early stages.
The rise in the cases of breast cancer is the direct result of the socio-economic conditions in Pakistan. Majority of the women are unaware regarding the symptoms of breast cancer and even if they do discover an abnormality, they avoid discussing it. Women living in the rural areas, in particular are unfamiliar with this life threatening disease, since, female anatomy is considered a shameful taboo in our traditional culture. Moreover, most hospitals lack the technology to efficiently diagnose breast cancer. As a result, poor women are becoming a victim because they cannot afford the treatment in private hospitals. Even those who can afford the treatment are shy or hesitant to get themselves checked for a 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; breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination (CBE) or mammograms (X-rays of the breasts). Furthermore, it is suggested that women should adopt a healthy lifestyle; exercise daily for at least 30 mins, maintain a balanced diet, avoid tobacco, drugs and hormone replacement therapies.
Since, most females are reluctant to get themselves checked for a breast cancer evaluation. They can take charge of their own bodies and conduct an examination by themselves. 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, color, 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 be able to detect any signs of cell abnormality or lumps (can be cancerous or not). Therefore, it is important to get a mammogram screening later as well. Moreover, BSE also provides a sense of empowerment to women as they can take an active part in taking care of their own health.