Women are confronted with personal and professional battles daily. Personal self-care is a woman’s most powerful defence in standing up to the challenges before her. Taking time out of your day to eat healthy and exercise, as well as to conduct regular breast self-examinations should be three of the top priorities on your self-care list.
This International Women’s Week, radiology practice Morton & Partners wants to drive home the importance of women knowing their normal when it comes to their breast health.
So what does it take for a woman to know her norm?
A woman’s breasts may change during the course of her life so it is vital for a woman to get to know her breasts and what feels normal. Should there be an irregularity in one breast and not the other, this is called asymmetry and should be examined by a medical practitioner without delay. Women should also conduct monthly breast self-examinations two weeks after a period.
Other than a lump being felt in the breast, other worrying signs that a woman should look out for is a lump in her armpit (also called the axilla), dimpling in the skin of her breasts, a nipple discharge especially if only on one side and bloody, a rash on or around her nipple, or a change in the appearance of her nipple.
It is advised to stand in front of a mirror and observe your breasts. This will help to pick up any changes to the physical appearance of your breasts, whether painful or not. Raise the arm on the same side of the breast being examined for any lumps or masses. This helps to spread the tissue and flatten out the breast and also allows for the underarm to be checked.
Breast self-examinations are important for women (and men) of all ages, and any changes need to be assessed by a doctor. The causes of breast cancer are multi-factorial, but age is a significant risk factor. Older women are more susceptible to breast cancer and so annual mammograms are recommended for women from the age of 40.
According to an expert diagnostic radiologist at Morton & Partners in Cape Town, Dr Jacqueline Kieck, if there is anything that international studies have shown us is that a regular mammography screening can save lives.
A mammogram is a non-invasive x-ray with minimum radiation that enables the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. The primary purpose of all screening is to pick up cancers early.
Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States writes that mammography is about detection, not prevention. Dr Sarah Zeb from Johns Hopkins says, “Having a mammogram every year increases the chance of detecting cancer when it is small and when it is most easily treated which also improves survival.”
“The smaller the tumour, the better the prognosis,” Dr Kieck concurs. She adds that a screen-detected tumour has an even better prognosis than a palpable lump, possibly even resulting in lesser treatments.
The reason for regular mammograms is for radiologists to have something to compare to. “It’s much easier to find an abnormality if you can see a change from the last mammogram,” notes Dr Kieck.
During this year, Morton & Partners has plans to raise awareness of breast screening, share information on the different breast cancers, and dispel myths that put off women from having mammograms.
“We see International Women’s Day as a means to empower women through proactive health choices,” comments Lizka Potgieter, marketing manager at Morton & Partners.
“Our objective is for women to celebrate their bodies and take the time to invest in their longevity.”
Morton & Partners will be gifting women a 15% discount when booking a mammogram in the month of their birthdays during 2021. The offer is available to private-paying patients. Women who celebrated their birthdays from January to March can still apply for their discount until July 31, 2021.