By Dr. Sergio Lopez Salamanca
Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women in the Western world and is one of the leading causes of death in our country, despite the accessibility of clinical examinations to detect the disease.
The main risk factors for this disease include a family history of breast cancer, beginning to menstruate at an early age, not having children or having had them at an older age, not breast-feeding children, obesity and the use of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Although age is also considered a risk factor, because most cases of advanced breast cancer are in women over 50 years old, young woman are not free of this risk and in them this condition tends to be more aggressive.
When the condition is diagnosed early and an appropriate treatment is initiated promptly, the chance of cure is very high. Because the breasts are relatively accessible organs, the ability to detect early-stage disease is high. If you find a mass or tumor, immediately go to your doctor for a precise diagnosis.
It is noteworthy that the majority of breast masses are found to be benign, such as breast cysts, so finding a lump does not necessarily mean it is cancerous, but a doctor should be consulted right away.
A key support for the early detection of this disease is breast self-examination, which should be done beginning at puberty at least once a month, and ideally once a week after the onset of menstruation.
Breast self-examination is a straightforward process. Begin by standing in front of a mirror, naked from the waist up. With your arms at your sides, examine the nipples and the look of each of your breasts to identify any changes in position or skin color. Then raise your arms and place your hands behind your head to see if there are any depressions in your breasts or nipple deviation. Then, lie down and place your right hand behind your neck and explore the right breast with the fingers of your left hand, beginning at armpit level and proceed smoothly in a clockwise direction with slight pressure, looking for painful areas or a small lump; finally palpate the area around the nipple looking for lumps and squeeze it to see if there is secretion. This same procedure is then repeated on the opposite side.
If you find any abnormality, see your doctor, who will do a breast exam to confirm or refute your findings and when necessary administer a mammogram.
Remember that breast cancer is curable if detected early.