If you’re anxious about performing a breast self-exam (BSE) or embarrassed about skipping it for months at a time, don’t beat yourself up. Major medical organizations no longer recommend BSE as a screening tool for early breast cancer detection in women who are at average risk of the disease.
But they do insist on “breast self-awareness.” Essentially, that means becoming familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel so you will be more likely to recognize anything out of the ordinary.
Mark Pearlman, MD, professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Hospital and Health Systems in Ann Arbor, was involved in writing ACOG’s breast cancer screening guidelines, which reflect the risk of harm from false-positive test results and lack of evidence of benefit.
Still, Dr. Pearlman notes that half of women over age 50 and 70% of women younger than 50 find their own breast cancers. “So we can’t really say, OK, just ignore your breasts.” That gave rise to the concept of breast self-awareness, he says.