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How good are self-breast exams at detecting cancer?

Is it a waste of time? How well should I know my breasts?
Breast self examinations are an important part of normal preventive health maintenance, which is why many doctors advocate their use on a monthly basis at least. The obvious benefits of being able to notice a lump at the earliest stages is the main reason that they are recommended. While the benefit seems to be obvious, the research that has been performed on breast self examinations (BSE) is not convincing that they actually lead to better outcomes. This could be because cancers that are big enough to be felt should have been detected previously to have the best outcomes (which is why women are encouraged to have regular screening mammograms and examinations by a qualified physician). There is also the concern that breast self examinations sometimes turn up lumps and bumps that require further testing but do not ultimately prove to be cancer, meaning that the women are subject to extra testing and anxiety for nothing. Despite that concern, most doctors continue to advocate that a woman should be involved in her health and well being, and that paying attention to her breasts regularly is a part of taking control of your own health. Please discuss this with your OB/GYN in more detail.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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