Are breast self-exams necessary?

You may already know about the importance of screening mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer. But there’s another important step you can take to protect your health, and it doesn’t require an appointment. A breast self-exam is your own examination of your breasts to check for potential abnormalities. However, the recommendation in favor of monthly breast self-exams is debatable. If you aren’t sure whether it’s a good idea for you, a doctor at Los Robles Regional Medical Center can offer personalized medical guidance.

Potential value of breast self-exams
It’s thought that breast self-exams may support the earlier detection of abnormalities like lumps. Some breast cancers are found through detection by the patients themselves, rather than screening tests conducted at the hospital. That’s why some doctors still recommend breast self-exams when done in combination with screening mammograms.

Possible downsides of breast self-exams
There is evidence to suggest that breast self-exams don’t actually increase early detection rates or reduce breast cancer mortality rates. And in some cases, it’s possible for them to do more harm than good when patients undergo unnecessary biopsies.

Instead, some health providers recommend breast self-awareness. This refers to having a good understanding of how your breasts generally look and feel in order to detect unusual changes.

Best practices in breast self-exams
If you are thinking of doing a breast self-exam, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. He or she can show you the proper method for performing a self-exam.

Know that it’s natural for the breasts to change over time. Before and during your menstrual period, your breasts may naturally feel lumpy, swollen, tender and painful. They may also feel lumpy during pregnancy.

If you decide to do a breast self-exam every month, you can write down your findings. Make a note of where your breasts feel lumpier, for example. This can help you keep track of changes.

Breast Center at Los Robles Regional Medical Center is focused on saving lives through preventive medicine, early detection, advanced treatment and healthy survivorship. Our state-of-the-art hospital in Thousand Oaks puts our patients first because healthy patients mean stronger communities. Call a registered nurse at (877) 888-5746 for general information about our breast care services.

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