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Breast Self-Exam – Life Saving or Mistake Making?

Females, always do the self-exam both upright and lying down.

Do you do Breast Self-Exams? Breast Self-Exams can help screen for tumors, cysts, and other abnormalities in the breasts. October, as you might have heard, was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I want to reach out with one more burst of positive energy.

Breast self-exams can be inaccurate – it’s true. The idea here is that if you perform the exam improperly – or you rely only on a self-exam and not a clinical screening – one of the following could occur: first, you might become extremely alarmed about an otherwise benign texture change, OR the flipside – you do not go for a regular Mammogram and become complacent while a tumor develops.

Here is a misleading statistic – “Improper Breast Self Exams increase the incidence of unnecessary tissue biopsies of benign conditions”. This information has lead the American Cancer Society to respond to pressure and declare that Breast Self Exams are now “optional”. So – what are we talking about here? I don’t understand. If you mistakenly become suspicious about a benign lump during your breast self exam, do you immediately have a biopsy? I think NO.  In that case, you take the suspicion to professionals and repeat the process.  Schedule your Mammogram. If the Pros decide a biopsy will serve you, get one. If it costs your insurance company a few extra dollars out of their windfall profits to assure you are alive and healthy, so be it. A biopsy is realistically not the end of the world for you; a carcinoma could be a much bigger challenge.

JUST BECAUSE A MONTHLY BREAST SELF-EXAM IS NOW CONSIDERED OPTIONAL DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD NOT DO IT. However, you must also schedule a regular screening with a doctor or specialist. Let’s be serious for a moment. A Self-Exam is something you can do every month for the eleven months in between clinical screenings. Why wait? It’s easy, and it’s about living a healthy life.

Breast Cancer is a big industry. There is a lot of buzz, but I think each of us should do our part to minimize the risks.

Here are some additional facts

  1. Breast Cancer is survivable.
  2. A huge industry exists from all angles on the subject – prevention, screening, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, outrage, conspiracy theories, politics, insurance. Don’t neglect the last two.
  3. A breast self exam can be performed at least once a month, ideally a few days before the end of the menstrual cycle, should be done both standing up and lying down, and should be journaled.
  4. Men can get breast cancer as well. Men should also do self-exams with some regularity, and at least prior to your yearly physical. Don’t have one scheduled? Do it now.

Proper health management in a clinic like Blue Heron will help remind you to get regular screening exams, and we are happy to refer you to a trusted colleague. Let’s talk about these in a visit this week.

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