Why Perform a Breast Self-Examination?

Reasons to Give Yourself a Breast Exam

Why examine your own breasts? Because breast self-examination (BSE) is a lifesaving habit. It is the best defense we have against breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13 percent. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a 7 in 8 chance she will never have the disease.

The ACS also has some positive statistics. Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women. From 2013 to 2018, the death rate went down by 1 percent per year. These decreases are believed to be the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as better treatments. BSE is a key to early detection.

The following are some of the reasons WHY you should make BSE a regular, monthly habit:

  • BSE is for women of all ages. Some doctors recommend you begin practicing BSE as soon as your breasts start developing. This will help you become familiar with your normal breast structure and learn to notice any unusual changes. The American Cancer Society, in its 1996 directive, recommends monthly BSE for women age 20 and older. As an adult woman, you should continue BSE throughout your life including during pregnancy and after menopause. Now is the right time to begin practicing BSE.
  • BSE is reassuring. Once you have learned how your breasts feel normally, each month’s re-examination may confirm you have not found any changes to report. And if any unusual changes do occur, monthly BSE will alert you to them at the earliest stage, so that you can seek immediate advice from your doctor. The encouraging fact is that not all changes in your breasts mean disease, and not all breast diseases are cancer; 80 percent of all breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous). Of those lumps that do prove to be malignant (cancerous), 95 percent are found by women performing BSE.
  • BSE is easy and convenient. Examining your breast takes only 10 to 15 minutes each month, costs nothing, can be done in private and can save your life.
  • BSE can be lifesaving. Although cases are rare under age 35, and most common over age 50, EVERY woman is at risk from breast cancer; breast cancer cannot be prevented, only treated -- and cured, if treated soon enough. Research shows that the tumors found by women practicing BSE are half the size of those discovered by doctors in non-BSE practicing women. And the smaller a breast cancer tumor when discovered, the greater chance of effective treatment and cure. If all women would do BSE, see their doctors for regular cancer checkups, and have mammograms as recommended, 95 percent of all breast cancers could be halted before they become fatal.

To schedule a mammogram, call (631) 638-2121.