Self breast exams - Are they worth the effort?

Filed under: Just For Moms, Health & Safety: Babies, In The News

breast cancer ribbonMost OB/GYNs have the box right on their patient information form: Do you perform a self-breast exam? Some women check yes, others check no, some may even guiltily check yes when they mean no, to avoid a lecture from their doctor.

When it comes to self breast exams, the information coming from the medical community can be confusing. While one study found that 35% of breast cancer patients discover their own lump, another recent study found that self breast exams had only a tiny affect on breast cancer survival. In fact, the leads behind that study took their findings one step further and suggested that self breast exams may actually lead to more biopsies and invasive testing.
The official stance of the American Cancer Society seems to be neutral. They say that women need to be aware of changes in their breasts, but don't go as far to say that a monthly self exam is the only road to awareness. Instead, they say, women who choose to do self examinations should be aware of the limitations of the exam and to review their technique with their doctor, and that it's "acceptable" for women who to choose not to do them at all or only to do them occasionally.

Breast lumps are common in women, and most breast lumps are benign. Even so, finding one and following the steps toward a proper diagnosis can certainly cause anxiety. Finding benign lumps can lead to unnecessary stress, yet some women might wonder how to stay aware of breast changes without at least occasional self breast exams. It's clear that, even with this new study, the advice on self breast exams remains frustratingly vague.

If you're a woman, do you perform a self breast exam?
Yes, every month.3 (11.1%)
Yes, but only occasionally.9 (33.3%)
Rarely or never.15 (55.6%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.