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Self Breast Exams - To Do Or Not To Do

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not recommend self breast examinations in women of average risk, as there is a lack of evidence of benefit, and an increased risk of harm from false positives. 

Self breast examinations had an increase in more benign breast legions being diagnoised, and an increased rate in breast biopsies. Studies have failed to show that doing regular self breast exams were beneficial in increasing cancer diagnoses or decreasing the reate of breast cancer deaths. Self breast exams also did not help with detecting cancer at earlier stages. That being said, 50% of breast cancer cases in women age 50 and older, and 71% of breast cancer cases in women younger than 50 years old, are detected by women themselves. 

ACOG is recommending what is called breast self-awareness. Rather than having a woman perform a routine, systematic examination of their breasts, women should instead notice a change or potential problem with her breasts. Of course, women should be advised to notify their provider if there are any changes, such as pain, redness, swelling, a mass, or a new onset of nipple discharge. 

*Additional note provided by Dr. Beth Hutson: "I recommend women feel their breasts every day to feel what is normal, then if anything changes, they are more aware. By feeling your breasts everyday, there is less anxiety - it just becomes part of your daily routine."

Karen Wood, APRN

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