Breast self-exam facts
- A breast self-exam is a woman's examination of her breasts for any changes or abnormalities.
- Although some women prefer to do breast self-exams, their value in detecting early cancers and in saving lives from breast cancer is controversial. For this reason, many medical organizations do not specifically recommend that women do breast self-exams.
- Mammography is the best way to detect early breast cancers.
- Breast self-exam is an option for women who choose to perform this exam.
- Breast self-exam involves looking for both changes in appearance and changes in feel of the breasts.
- Any changes noticed on breast self-exam should be discussed with a doctor. Most breast lumps are benign (are not cancerous).
What is a breast self-exam?
A breast self-exam is a woman's examination of her own breasts. Breast self-exams were formerly encouraged to help women detect breast cancer, but experts and medical organizations do not agree about whether this is necessary or helps save lives. Many women feel comfortable doing breast self-exams as a way to monitor their own health.
Is a breast self-exam necessary?
As mentioned, agencies that issue health practice guidelines do not agree on whether doing breast self-exams are helpful in terms of cancer detection or saving lives from cancer. The best way to detect breast cancer is by having regular mammograms combined with a breast examination by a health care professional.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast self exam is an option for women starting in their 20s, but women should be informed about the limitations as well as the benefits of this practice. According to the ACS, "Research has shown that BSE plays a small role in finding breast cancer compared with finding a breast lump by chance or simply being aware of what is normal for each woman."