Health ConditionsWellness

Should You Abandon the Self-Breast Exam?

Only the sixth of the month and we’re already eyeball-deep in information on breast cancer news, research, information, etc. And it’s great!

Breast Cancer Awareness month is such a successful example of how health issues can take the spotlight resulting in major changes for research and development, personal responsibility on staying in control and being informed regarding our health, as well as building a community of support for survivors, fighters and their families.

One discussion we’ve come across several times during our week of reading is that self breast exams are no longer recommended, which may sound confusing given the previous attention brought to the importance of self breast exams in Octobers past, but we encourage you to look further with us.

This article from NBC News, ‘Breast Self-Awareness’: More Blame For Women, explains the reasons why self breast exams can actually cause more harm than good, and that women should now adopt the viewpoint of being “self-breast aware.”

We know, it kind of leaves you in the dark, but stay with us.

According to the Susan G. Komen website, self-breast exams are no longer regarded as a recommended screening tool after

“A meta-analysis combined results from the two largest randomized controlled trials on breast self-exam to date (one in Shanghai, China and one in Russia). The Shanghai study included about 266,000 women and the Russia study included about 122,000 women. The combined analysis found no difference in rates of breast cancer death after 15 years between women who did routine breast self-exam and those who did not. And, the breast self-exam groups had more false positive results, leading to nearly twice as many biopsies with benign (not cancer) results as the other groups.”

Along with Susan G. Komen, other organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  also do not recommended the self-breast exam as a proper screening practice and claim that women should become more breast aware.

Here’s where the confusion remains: how do we stay “self-aware” of our breasts without doing a self exam?

According to the NBC News article, instead of diligently conducting self-exams, women are now urged to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, know their family history and risk,  be screened appropriately and take steps to control health factors, such as weight and exercise, that can prevent breast cancer.

Of course, it’s still your choice on whether you choose to conduct a self-breast exam, but know you don’t need to be anxiously doing it once a month and it’s not the thing you need to be focusing on the most.

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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