Ways to Detect Breast Cancer at Home: 8 Important Symptoms You Should Know

One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, in India, every 4 minutes.

One woman dies of breast cancer, in India, every 8 minutes.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in India.

With roughly one in eight women developing breast cancer, there is a possibility that nearly everyone is affected by this disease, be it a personal diagnosis or of a loved one. However, we can combat this with early detection. For early treatment, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of breast cancer - with preliminary checks at home by way of Breast Self-Examination.

What is Breast Self-Examination?

Breast Self-Examination (BSL) is a systematic examination of the breasts aimed at familiarizing the woman with her breasts, thereby aiding in identifying the early signs of any anomalies.

How to detect breast cancer at home?

Detecting breast cancer is possible if there is a regular breast examination done by a woman. It is a simple process involving touching, looking for certain changes and if found, getting it checked by your doctor.

Checking your breasts does not involve special techniques and can be done in a few minutes. Press lightly and feel the whole breast area, including the armpits and upper chest to identify any lumps, skin inflammation, cracking or puckering of skin on the breasts.

8 Common signs and symptoms of breast cancer:

Look out for these eight common signs and symptoms when doing a BSL at home.

  • Skin texture

Breast cancer can lead to changes and inflammation in skin cells which leads to changes in the skin texture. The skin may appear scaly, sunburned or extremely dry. It can also cause the skin to wrinkle. In some cases, skin thickening might occur in any part of the breast. Though not definitive, these symptoms do indicate to a breast or skin-related aliment, hence it is important you get it checked.

  • Nipple discharge

You might observe a slight discharge from the nipples which can range from clear to milky to red or even green. Although, nipple discharge could mean multiple things like -

  • Breast infection
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Medical conditions like thyroid

Therefore, it is better to get yourself examined by a doctor to eliminate the possibility of breast cancer.

  • Lumps

Formation of a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest, and the armpit should not be taken casually. A lump or a swelling in the breast for no apparent reason should be immediately checked for breast cancer.

  • Dimpling of skin

Usually cancer cells cause a build-up of lymph fluid in the breast that leads to dimpling or pitted skin in and around the breast.

  • Lymph Node changes

Lymph nodes are a small round collection of immune system tissues that filter fluids and capture any harmful bacteria, virus or harmful cells. If a cancer cell leaves the breast it usually travels to the armpit, thereby leading to swelling in that area. Swollen lymph nodes are usually small, firm, swollen lumps that are tender to touch.

  • Redness and swelling

If you observe redness or bruises on or around the breasts without any possible explanation, then it could be an indication of breast cancer. If you have not experienced any recent trauma that could lead to such redness or swelling, it’s time to visit the doctor.

  • Physical changes or inverting of nipples

Breast cancer can cause changes in the cells behind the nipples. These changes can cause nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast. It might also cause changes in the size and shape of the breasts.

  • Rashes or crusting

Rashes or crusting around the nipple and areola region could also be an indication of breast cancer. Such a rash or crusting could also mean other infections. Lactating mothers may see this symptom as well but that is usually related to mastitis or breast abscess. However, if such rashes or crusting appears it is important to take the doctors opinion to rule out breast cancer.

As a woman, you need to be aware about the normal look and feel of your breasts. Undertake regular breast examinations at home, because an early detection can save a life.