I heard on one of the morning news programs today that breast self-examinations can be dangerous to your health.
Yes, that’s how the message came across. But they are not so dangerous, really. They are more life-saving than life-threatening—a self-exam saved my life, if that counts—and I want you to know why.
Breast self-exams can be dangerous in this way, say the news sources—backed by doctors, of course: They can turn up suspicious stuff—that’s the point, after all—and they can cause women to worry. When women worry, they tend to visit their doctors. When doctors can’t figure things out, they tend to order biopsies. And biopsies tend to turn up nothing all that worrisome—nearly 80 percent of breast lumps are benign. Self-exams, then, lead to unnecessary biopsies. Not an ideal scenario, I know, but does that make self-exams dangerous? Not in my opinion. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
I suggest all women conduct self-exams once per month. Make it about one week after your menstrual cycle when hormonal changes are minimal and make note of how your breasts feel each time you examine them. You’re looking for a change from one exam to the next. I know it can cause anxiety. But I promise you that cancer causes a whole lot more. So why not err on the side of caution? You may not even need a biopsy. Mammogram and ultrasound often come first and rule out the need for needles of any sort.
I’m a fan of surviving breast cancer. Are you? If so, then check those breasts, starting this month.
Photo courtesy of Ruth on flickr