BREAST CANCER SELF-TEST
WHEN TO EXAMINE YOUR BREASTS
It is important to examine your breasts each month, at the same point in your menstrual cycle. Do not examine them during your menstrual period. Before the period, a woman's breasts may swell and become tender or lumpy. This usually decreases after the period. Follow the same procedure once a month about 1 week after your period, when your breasts are usually not tender or swollen. The breasts usually become larger and firmer during pregnancy, in preparation for breastfeeding. Familiarize yourself with the normal feel of your breasts so that you can detect any changes such as enlargement of a lump. A woman who is accustomed to the way her breasts feel is better able to notice subtle changes. Any changes in your breasts should be reported to your health care provider, and you should be rechecked by a professional if you have any doubt concerning your examination. Since men can also get breast cancer, they can benefit from self-examination as well.
After menopause, check your breasts on the first day of each month. After a hysterectomy, consult with your health care provider or clinic for an appropriate time of the month.
Doing a monthly self-exam will give you peace of mind, and seeing your health care provider once a year will reassure you there is nothing wrong.
3-STEP BREAST EXAM PROCEDURE
This simple 3-step procedure could save your life by finding breast cancer early when it is most curable. For each procedure, think of your breast as an imaginary clock face. Begin at the outermost top of your right breast for 12 o'clock then move to 1 o'clock, and so on around the clock back to 12.
IN THE SHOWER
Examine your breasts during a bath or shower--hands glide easier over wet skin. With the fingers flat, move the hand gently over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast. Check for any lump, hard knot or thickening.
IN FRONT OF A MIRROR
While standing and looking in the mirror, inspect your breasts with arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead and press your hands together. Notice the shape of the breasts. Look for any changes in contour of each breast (swelling, dimpling, or changes in the nipple). Next place your hands on your hips, apply pressure, and look for dimpling of the skin, nipples that seem to be out of position, one breast that looks different from the other, or red scaling or thickening of the skin and nipples.
Raise on arm above your head. With the other hand, firmly explore your breast. Beginning at the outer edge, using a circular motion, gradually work toward the nipple. Take your time when examining the area between the nipple and the armpit, and feel the armpit as well. You will have lymph nodes in the armpit; they move freely and feel soft, and are not painful to the touch. Look for lumps that are hard and not mobile. Cancers are often attached to underlying muscle or the skin. When you have finished examining one breast, repeat with this procedure on the other breast.
LYING DOWN ON YOUR BACK
To examine your right breast, put a pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Place your right hand under your head--this distributes breast tissue more evenly on the chest.
With the left hand, fingers flat, press gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face. A ridge of firm tissue in the lower curve of each breast is normal. Then move in an inch, toward the nipple, and keep circling to examine every part of your breast, including the nipple. This requires at least three more circles. Now slowly repeat the procedure on your left breast with a pillow under your left shoulder and the left hand under your head. Notice how your breast structure feels.
Check the area under each arm (with your elbow slightly bent). Your lymph glands are located in this area and they may become swollen if your are sick. If you feel a small lump that moves freely, check it daily for a few days. If it doesn't go away, call your health care provider.
Squeeze the nipple on each breast gently between thumb and index finger. Any discharge, clear, watery yellow, or bloody (pinkish), should be reported to your health care provider immediately.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A LUMP OR THICKENING
If a lump, dimple or discharge is discovered during a self-exam, it is important to see your health care provider as soon as possible. Don't be frightened. Most breast lumps or changes are not cancer, but only your health care provider can make the diagnosis.
Remember, however, that your monthly breast exam is not a substitute for an examination by a medical professional. See your health care provider once a year (more often if you are in a risk group) and get a mammogram as recommended. Ages 35-39, one baseline mammogram; ages 40-49, one every 1-2 years; over age 50, one every year.
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Cancer Self Exam
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Cancer Self Exam - Three way
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Cancer Overview
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Biopsy By Incision
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Biopsy By Needle Aspiration
MoonDragon's ObGyn Information: Breast Surgery Index
COLON CANCER SELF-TEST
A test kit can be purchased at most drugstores for detecting blood in the stool (an early sign of colon cancer). In one test, you simply drop a strip of chemically treated paper into the commode after a bowel movement. The paper will change to the color blue if blood is present in the stool.
If your test result is positive, take a second test in three days. If the second test is also positive, see your health care provider immediately. The presence of blood in the stool does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. The consumption of red meat or the presence of diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, polyps, ulcers, or an inflamed colon can all cause a positive test result. About 10 percent of those who test positive for blood in the stool have cancer.
TESTICULAR CANCER SELF-TEST
THE SELF-EXAMINATION TECHNIQUE
You should think of the testicle as an eggplant shaped object only much smaller. It is ovoid except on top, where the sperm duct (epididymis) connects like a stem.
The exam may be done initially while you are lying down, then repeated while standing. Some men feel comfortable using a chair and placing their right leg on it for the exam. Try whatever method works best for you. You can stand in front of a mirror and look for any swelling on the skin of the scrotum. Using one hand, hold the testicle to stabilize it. With the fingers of both hands, gently roll each testicle between the thumb and the first 2 fingers of you free hand, checking for hard lumps or nodules. Check for imperfections on the surface, swelling or any changes in size or shape over time. Be sure to include the epididymis (the rope-like portion) in your examination. Normally, testicles feel smooth and a little spongy. Repeat the exam on the other testicle.
It is normal to have one testicle slightly larger than the other. Check the skin of the scrotum for dry or hard patches. A mass will feel firm but not painful when pressed, unless there is bleeding inside the tumor.
The absence of one testicle usually indicates an undescended testicle. Shrinking (atrophy) of one or both testicles also need to be noted and reported to your health care provider. If you find a suspicious lump or mass, see your health care provider.
You will be better able to feel for lumps if you check for them after a warm bath or shower, when the scrotal skin is relaxed.
Due to the lack of information, press coverage in the media, ignorance or fear of testicular cancer, many men fail to perform the simple self-test (see above) that can detect the disease early, when it is most when it is the most curable. You can get cancer on your testicles. In fact, testicular cancer is the most common cancer malignancy in men aged 15-35 years of age. In the 1970's, when Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo (his story was dramatized in the movie Brian's Song) died of cancer, which began in his testicles, testicular cancer was almost always fatal. Today, the treatment success rate is 90 percent and nearly 100 percent among men who get detection and fast treatment early on.
QUICK MEDICAL EVALUATION & TREATMENT
Fast treatment of testicular cancer not only improves your survival rate, it also lessens the likelihood that treatment will make you infertile. Unfortunately, the early stages of testicular cancer seldom causes such obvious symptoms that someone who's unaware of what to look for will not even notice something is wrong down there.
For example, despite having an enlarged testicle for at least 3 years, cyclist Armstrong says he didn't have it checked until the cancer had spread and he was coughing up blood.
TESTICULAR CANCER SYMPTOMS
Aside from testicular swelling or a change in size or shape, the symptoms may include testicular or back pain, upset stomach, urinary problems, enlarged breasts or infertility. The most common symptom is a bump or lump in the scrotum. Finding a bump right away is vital since testicular cancer tumors can double in size every 10 to 30 days. As a result, health care providers recommend that men under 40, examine themselves at least once a month.
DETECTING A LUMP IN THE TESTICLE
If you detect a lump or anything unusual or irregular, see your health care provider immediately. Your health care provider may examine you personally or send you to a Urologist.
If a mass is found in a testicle, your health professional will place a strong light behind the testicle to determine whether light can pass through it (called transillumination). A testicular tumor is too solid for light to pass through it. Also, a testicle with a tumor generally appears heavier than a normal testicle. A palpable mass or swelling caused by a hydrocele will allow light to pass through it. A hydrocele feels like water in a thin plastic bag. The other testicle also will be felt and examined to make sure it does not contain any lumps, masses, or other abnormalities. Your health professional will also feel the lymph nodes in your groin and along your inner thigh for signs of enlargement.
Your health care provider may order an ultrasound and blood tests or he or she may prescribe antibiotics if an infection is suspected. If the symptoms do not go away in 2 weeks, return to your health care provider right away. The American Cancer Society reports that diagnostic delays of 30 to 60 days are not uncommon. This may be due in part to the fact that many health care providers are inexperienced in dealing with the disease. During the delay, you should consider alternative remedies right away.
GETTING TREATMENT FOR TESTICULAR CANCER
If your health care provider does tests and thinks you have cancer, there's no way to know for sure except by removing the testicle and doing a biopsy. Because cancer cells can quickly spread to the lymph nodes (see cancer picture.) and from there travel throughout the body, your health care provider may operate immediately after determining surgery is necessary. Sometimes surgery is done within hours of the examination. Sometimes surgery is followed by radiation or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy can permanently destroy a patient's ability to produce sperm. If you want to have children in the future, sperm banking is suggested for men taking chemotherapy before the chemo treatments begin.
MOONDRAGON'S CANCER LINKS
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cancer - Alternative & Complementary Therapies
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cancer Nutrition
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Cancer Self Tests
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OTHER RELATED CANCER LINKS
Cancer Therapies (Alphabetical Listing)
The Cancer Control Society Meeting - Alternative Therapies
Alternative Cancer Clinics Outside of the United States
NOTIFY YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF...
You suspect or have signs that may be associated with cancer.
You want more information regarding cancer therapies, conventional and alternative.
You have unusual or unexplained symptoms. Some therapies, both conventional and alternative, may produce side effects during treatment.
Your symptoms worsen, despite treatment.
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