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Breast Self-Exam: Do I Need to Do a Self-Exam

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Breast cancer is one of most common cancers in women. The sooner you diagnose it, the easier it is to treat. The best way to find breast cancer early is getting regular screening tests done. One method of screening for breast cancer is giving yourself a breast exam, or a breast self-exam. But do you actually need to do a self-exam?

What the research is showing

The answer is complicated. Research has not shown a clear benefit of regular breast self-exams. There is little evidence that self-exams are helpful for early diagnosis or improving survival rates. As a result, most medical organizations don’t recommend it. In fact, doing a breast self-exam can lead to anxiety or unnecessary additional tests and procedures. Most changes or lumps you may find in your breast aren’t cancerous. Even though most changes or lumps are not cancerous, it is still good a good idea to follow-up with a healthcare provider.

What medical organizations are saying

Instead, medical organizations are recommending that you should be familiar with how your breast normally look and feel. If you notice any changes, contact a healthcare provider right away. Most often, you will discover any changes or lumps from regular activities, such as bathing or dressing. This doesn’t mea you can’t do one. You may feel more comfortable doing regular self-exams as a way to keep track of how your breasts look and feel.

What you can do

While breast exams may no longer be needed, it’s still important to get regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer. Typically, you can start mammogram screening between 30 and 45 years of age. When you start depends on your chance of getting breast cancer. Your genetics, health, and family history usually determine your chance of developing breast cancer.

  • For an average chance for breast cancer, it’s recommended that to start mammogram screening every year when you are 45. You also have the option to start screening between 40 and 44. When you are 55, you can continue to screen every year or switch to every other year.
  • For a high chance for breast cancer, it’s recommended to start screening earlier. Typically when you are 30, with mammograms and a breast MRI every year.

Talk to a healthcare provider for when you should start mammogram screening.

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