ZocdocAnswersHow often should I give myself a self-breast exam?

Question

How often should I give myself a self-breast exam?

I try to do it once a month I'm 27 but is this OK? Should I do more?

Answer

You have touched on a somewhat controversial issue. At this time, most doctors do not (or at least should not) recommend that most women perform self-breast exams. The reason for this is a bit complicated, but I will do my best to explain below. A couple large clinical trials were done to look at the effectiveness of self breast exams done once per month at detecting breast cancer early so that interventions could be done before the cancer advanced. It has been clearly shown that performing self breast exams does not prevent breast cancer death. However, when women do perform breast exams, there are times when a lump is found. When a lump is found, it usually need to be biopsied with a large needle. Most of these lumps found by women who do self breast exams turn out to be benign. Thus, all self breast exams do is increase the number of breast biopsies a women would have to endure, without decreasing the likelihood of breast cancer death. I hope that made a little sense. The best physician for you to pose this question to is your primary care physician. The two of you can discuss what methods of breast cancer screening are appropriate for you with your past medical history and family history in mind. Thanks again for the question.

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