Breast Self-Exam for a CureMelanie Tawil
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast self-exam, or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find breast cancer early when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. While no single test can detect all breast cancers early, Breastcancer.org believes that performing breast self-exam in combination with other screening methods can increase the odds of early detection.
Over the years, there has been some debate over just how valuable breast self-examination is in detecting breast cancer early and increasing the likelihood of survival. For example, a 2008 study of nearly 400,000 women in Russia and China reported that breast self-examination does not have a meaningful impact on breast cancer survival rates and may even cause harm by prompting unnecessary biopsies (removal and examination of suspicious tissue). Because of the ongoing uncertainty raised by this and other studies, the American Cancer Society no longer recommends breast self-exam as a screening tool for women with an average risk of breast cancer.
Breastcancer.org still believes that breast self-examination is a useful and important screening tool, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams by a doctor, mammography, and in some cases ultrasound and/or MRI. Each of these screening tools works in a different way and has strengths and weaknesses. Breast self-exam is a convenient, no-cost tool that you can use on a regular basis and at any age. We recommend that all women routinely perform breast self-exams as part of their overall breast cancer screening strategy. Check out the infographic below to find out how to perform a self-exam.