October is breast cancer awareness month! Because of the seriousness of the cancer  type there is a need for every lady for self examination which helps to discover the cancer as soon as possible. Luckily the procedure of self examination is quite easy and everyone can do it right at home. Although the best way to detect breast cancer is by mammograms, it can often be expensive and unavailable. Self control does not replace mammograms but it can help to detect changes in the breasts quickly because it`s available to everyone (1).

It is recommended to start self examination at the age of 20. The procedure should be done once a month several days after menstruation to avoid swelling associated with the period. You will only need a mirror to get a better view of yourself. The examination procedure consists of 5 steps:

Look at your breasts in the mirror with hands on your hips. See if you can detect any changes in the size, color or shape of the
breasts.


Raise your hands above your head and check for the same factors.


See if there is any fluid coming from the nipples.

For the next step you can lie down and start touching your breast with the opposite hand. Make circular motions with 3 of your fingers that are held together and flat.

Don`t forget the areas around the breasts like the top of your abdomen, armpits, cleavage and even the collarbone area. In order to check all the areas try to move your fingers vertically in rows. Because the examination area is quite large you should use different pressure for each tissue.

For the area just beneath the breast you should use lighter pressure, medium pressure for the area in the middle of the breasts and for the back use firmer pressure so that you can feel the ribcage.

Do the same while standing up or sitting. It may be easier to do this step in the shower when the skin is more slippery. (2)

Examining your breasts regularly helps you to be aware of the normal condition of your breasts and recognize the changes that occur in the breast tissue. Remember that not every change is harmful but just a sign that you should see a doctor for advice (2). Lumps that are caused by cancer tend to be hard, painless and unmovable. You should also consult your doctor about when to start and how often you should have a mammogram.

In addition, lifestyle changes like eating healthy food and avoiding toxins can reduce the risk of getting breast cancer. It has been shown that eating a Mediterranean diet may help reduce breast cancer risk. Mediterranean diet contains higher amount of healthy fats like nuts, seeds and fish. Adding olive oil as a supplement reduced the risk of getting breast cancer even more (3).

Furthermore, simply keeping your weight under control can help too. Excess weight means more hormones are produced which stimulate the growth of cancer cells. The World Cancer Research Fund found that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to the amount of body fat, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption (4). There is also a link between hormonal therapy and breast cancer so you should ask your doctor whether there are alternatives (5).

Smoking, drinking alcohol, radiation and toxins are also factors that increase the risk for all types of cancers including breast cancer.
References

1. Singh, M. M., Devi, R., Walia, I. & Kumar, R. Breast self examination for early detection of breast cancer. Indian J Med Sci 53, 120–126 (1999).
2. Breast Self-Exam: How to Check for Lumps and Other Breast Changes. Breastcancer.org Available at: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam. (Accessed: 23rd August 2018)
3. Toledo, E. et al. Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med 175, 1752–1760 (2015).
4. Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection? Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/diet-and-physical-activity.html. (Accessed: 22nd August 2018)
5. Schairer, C. et al. Menopausal estrogen and estrogen-progestin replacement therapy and breast cancer risk. JAMA 283, 485–491 (2000).

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is based on published SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data and is for educational purposes only. Most published studies about genetic variants in the DNA explain only a small part of the heritability of a trait or disease risk, and often do not take into account how different variants may interact with each other. In addition, many published studies do not account for medical history or environmental, dietary, microbial, or lifestyle factors, which may alter true risk for any trait or disease.

The relevance of each article may vary based on ethnicity. Nothing in the genetic article should be used for medical self-diagnosis or self-treatment. The information provided should not be considered complete, nor should it be relied on to suggest diagnosis or treatment of a particular individual. You should always get the advice of your doctor or other appropriate health care professional if you have any questions about diagnosis, treatment, prevention, mitigation, or cure of any medical condition, phenotype, condition, impairment, or the status of your health.

Glossary

ALLELE – an allele is a variant form of a gene that is located at a specific position, or genetic locus, on a specific chromosome. Humans have two alleles at each genetic locus, with one allele inherited from each parent.
CHROMOSOME – a chromosome is a thread-like structure of DNA that carries hereditary information, or genes. Human cells have 22 chromosome pairs plus two sex chromosomes, giving a total of 46 per cell.
DISEASE PREVALENCE – the proportion of individuals in a population having a disease or characteristic. Prevalence is a statistical concept referring to the number of cases of a disease that are present in a particular population at a given time, whereas incidence refers to the number of new cases that develop in a given period of time.
DNA – or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the main component of chromosomes and the carrier of genetic information in nearly all living organisms. DNA is made up of molecules called nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate group, a sugar group and a nitrogen base. The four types of nitrogen bases are adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C).
GENE – is a sequence of DNA or RNA that codes for a molecule that has a function. Genes are transferred from a parent to offspring, and are responsible for the physical and heritable characteristics or phenotype of an individual.
GENETIC VARIANT – an alteration in the most common DNA nucleotide sequence. The variant can be benign, pathogenic or of unknown significance. SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation.
GENOTYPE – the genetic makeup of an individual organism. It may also refer to just a particular gene or set of genes carried by an individual. The genotype determines the phenotype, or observable traits of the organism.
ODDS RATIO – the odds ratio is a way of comparing whether the odds of a certain outcome is the same for two different groups. In this report, the odds ratio estimates the probability of a condition occurring in a group of people with a certain genetic variant compared to a group of people without that variant.

An odds ratio of 1 means that the two groups are equally likely to develop the condition. An odds ratio higher than 1 means that the people with the genetic variant are more likely to develop the condition, while an odds ratio of less than 1 means that the the people with the variant are less likely to develop the condition.
PHENOTYPE – a description of an individual’s physical characteristics, including appearance, development and behaviour. The phenotype is determined by the individual’s genotype as well as environmental factors.
POPULATION ALLELE FREQUENCY – the allele frequency represents the incidence of a gene variant in a population. Alleles are variant forms of a gene that are located at the same position, or genetic locus, on a chromosome.
SNP – aingle nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs, are the most common type of genetic variation among people. A SNP is a variation in a single nucleotide that occurs at a specific position in the genome.

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