By Shina Patel, PA
Cancer is such a scary word to many, but hearing this word does not have to cause so much fear. Many, if not all of us have known someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. There are some types of cancer that can be treated if caught early, such as breast cancer and testicular cancer.
In order to facilitate early detection, patients should begin screening at home as soon as possible.
As a patient, it is very important that you feel comfortable performing self-examinations on a monthly basis. You should learn the signs and symptoms you’re looking for during the self-exam.
Today breast cancer in all stages is treatable and many times it is curable. The first thing patients need to know is that proper regular screening is imperative.
Breast cancer is screened using a radiological study called mammography, usually starting at age 40 and done on an annual basis.
Sometimes these tests are ordered before age 40 depending on a patient’s family history. However, along with mammograms it is important that patients perform self-breast examinations at home.
Patients also need to look out for the following signs and symptoms:
- Nipple retractions.
- Skin dimpling.
- Breast pain.
- Palpable lumps and bumps.
- Discharge from the nipple.
- Redness over the breasts.
Here are seven steps to conduct your own self-breast examination:
- Start by laying down on a comfortable surface, preferably a bed.
- Place your right arm behind your head.
- Using the pads of the middle three fingers on your left hand, feel around the tissues in a circular motion, looking for lumps.
- Apply three different types of pressure – light, medium and firm pressure.
- In a similar fashion, check underneath the arm pit.
- Squeeze nipple gently to check for lumps and nipple discharge.
- Repeat steps for the other breast.
Testicular cancer occurs in 1 percent of the population and typically affects men between the ages of 20 to 39.
Testicular cancer is diagnosed at the local stage 67.9 percent of the time. The 5-year survival for localized testicular cancer is 99.2 percent. This makes it even more important to start self-examinations at an earlier age.
Performing monthly exams will help you become familiar with your body and make it easier to detect abnormalities. If the abnormalities are found on self-exams, then an ultrasound is usually ordered to further assist in reaching a diagnosis.
Look for the following signs and symptoms:
- Enlarged testicular or lumps/bumps.
- Heaviness in the scrotum.
A step-by-step guide to home testicular self-examination:
- Locate a testicle by feeling along the scrotal sac.
- Hold the testicle firmly in one hand and roll the fingers of the free hand over the entire surface while feeling for bumps, lumps, lesions or pain.
- Repeat the steps with the opposite testicle.
Consistency is the most important aspect of these screenings. Prevention is the name of the game, and all of us here at Cucamonga Valley Medical Group want to help empower you in your own healthcare.