While the use of screening mammograms save lives, there is controversy on recommending self-breast examinations (SBE). What is not controversial is the importance of being aware of what your breasts look and feel like, and to report any concerning changes to your healthcare provider right away. I recommend doing your SBE as the best way to find these changes as soon as possible. This is even more important these days, since imaging is not being routinely offered.
Pros of SBE:SBE is a free tool that you can use on a regular basis and at any age as part of your routine breast cancer screening strategy.
- Studies have previously reported that 50% of cases of breast cancer in women 50 years and older and 70% of cases of breast cancer in women younger than 50 years are detected by women themselves.
- One study found that 43% of breast cancer survivors surveyed stated that they detected their own cancers on self-exam.
- In another study of low-income breast cancer patients, investigators reported that 64% of the women self-detected their breast cancer.
Cons of SBE:
- Two large studies compared women who did SBE to those who did not, and they found that there was no difference in breast cancer survival and a higher rate of false positive results (which led to many more biopsies with no cancer found).
The Most Common Warning Signs of Breast Cancer:
- A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
- A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
- Nipple discharge
When Should You Do Your SBE?Starting at 20 years of age is the most commonly recommended age to begin SBE’s. It’s recommenced to do your SBE once a month. Examine yourself a 3-5 days after your period ends, when your breast are least likely to be swollen and tender. After menopause, pick an easy day to remember, such as the first or last day of each month.
How Do You Do A SBE?Here are two video demonstrations I recommend: From: breastcancer.org Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Here’s what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling