A breast self-exam for breast awareness is a safe way to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts.

However, there are some limitations and risks, including:

  • Anxiety caused by finding a lump. Most of the changes or lumps women find in their breasts aren't cancerous. Still, finding something suspicious in your breast can make you anxious about what it may mean. You may endure several days of worry until you can see your doctor.
  • Additional tests and procedures may be necessary to check out lumps or changes. If you discover a suspicious lump, you may end up having a procedure to remove breast tissue for examination (biopsy). If it turns out the lump was noncancerous (benign), you might feel that you've undergone an invasive procedure unnecessarily.
  • Overestimating the benefits of self-exams. A breast self-exam isn't a substitute for a breast exam by your doctor (clinical breast exam) or a screening mammogram. Using breast self-exam to become familiar with your breasts can supplement breast cancer screening, but can't replace it.

Discuss the benefits and limitations of breast self-exam for breast awareness with your doctor to decide whether it's right for you.

Jul. 17, 2014