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livelaughlove21's avatar

Ladies: Do you check yourself? If so, how often?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15608points) November 8th, 2013 from iPhone

Do you perform self breast exams? If so, when did you start and how often do you do it?

I was browsing the Susan J. Komen website and was surprised to discover that self exams are not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer. It’s states that a meta-analysis of women showed that the survival rates for women who performed self exams were no different than the ones for women that did not. In fact, more false positives and benign biopsies resulted from self exams.

I was also surprised to find that it is recommended that women 20–39 only need a clinical breast exam about every three years. I thought it would be recommended yearly.

What do you think about the effectiveness of self exams and how often young women should get clinical breast exams?

My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 73. It was found on a mammogram. After they found the lump, my grandma tried to find it herself and couldn’t. It wasn’t all that advanced, but it was bad enough that she had to receive a mastectomy and chemo. The doctors said the lump was the size of a grain of sand. It seems that by the time you can feel a lump, you’re screwed. I have an irrational fear of breast cancer, which is made worse by the fact that I often have breast pain and I have issues with anxiety. I don’t do self exams, though, because I know I’ll be at my doctor every other month because I think I feel something that isn’t there or is completely normal. Frankly, I can’t afford to do that. I’m 24 and I’ve been getting annual breast exams since I was 18. I always try to convince myself to start checking my breasts every month, but I never do. So, this research actually made me feel a bit better.

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10 Answers

anniereborn's avatar

I pretty much never do self breast exams. And strangely enough for the same reason you don’t. I get one done every two years by my doctor. I HAVE to schedule a mammogram this year. I am way overdue.

glacial's avatar

“I don’t do self exams, though, because I know I’ll be at my doctor every other month because I think I feel something that isn’t there or is completely normal. Frankly, I can’t afford to do that. I’m 24 and I’ve been getting annual breast exams since I was 18. I always try to convince myself to start checking my breasts every month, but I never do.”

Hah. This describes me exactly. I’m not a bit surprised at what you report about false positives and survival rates – this makes perfect sense to me. But I do still have that nagging sense of doubt and/or guilt. I blame the media. ;)

snowberry's avatar

I have extremely dense fibrocystic breasts. Self exams do not work on me. They are very lumpy, and I wouldn’t recognize one lump from any of the others.

I also do not use mammograms, but thermography instead.

Mamograms hurt at best, and for someone like me they are excruciating. To top it off, if I did have a cancerous tumor in my breast, a mammogram could burst it which is a really bad thing to happen. Here are theromographic images of various body parts, including breast cancers.

LilCosmo's avatar

I used to do self exams fairly regularly, nowadays I only do it when I think of it which is a few times a year. I do have mammograms annually and, because of a family history of cancer, have since I was in my late 30’s. From all I have read the jury is still out on both self exams and mammograms. Recently I have seen more and more articles saying that mammograms may cause over diagnosis of breast cancer and treatment that is not necessary.

Seek's avatar


My gyno does a breast exam standard with a Pap test, which is every two years for someone my age (mid/late 20s).

I’ve always done self-exams, since I first heard about them. I’d say… once a month at least. But my breasts changed dramatically when I started breastfeeding, and again after stopping.

I used to worry a bit, because I kept lactating for almost a year after my son had given up. Not a lot, but if I tried, I could make milk happen. And of course, since I went from being a card carrying member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee to a fairly decent (if kind of droopy and stretch-marked) 32C, I had no idea what the new “normal” was.

Thanks go to my GYN, who actually talked through the breast exam letting me know what each part was and why some places are soft and squishy, and others are firm and lumpy, and how a “bad lump” differs from a “good lump”.

I think a lot of the self-exam freak-outs come from the fact that no one actually talks about what normal is, in its wide, natural range, and the majority of women never see a pair of breasts other than their own, much less feel other breasts for lumps.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

When I read this I had to say “Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self”. Anyhow, I think that I’ve done it 3 times in my life (and I’m 41)

gailcalled's avatar

The easiest and quickest way, if you want to, is in the shower with soap. The combo of the soap on wet skin makes it easier to notice any changes. I had breast cancer 17 years ago and used to check my breasts every thirty seconds, it seems, but no longer bother.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

What you are supposed to check for are changes in your breasts when you do the self exam. You don’t look for lumps. It’s a supporting thing to your Dr visits. I had someone ask me to help them with this and I did my research. There are three or four different ways you check. One of the main things that you want to watch out for are close family relatives with it, but only about 15 percent of breast cancers are genetic. A lot is listed as hormonal, other causes, etc. It was generally recommended as doing it every thirty days. The shower method, then lying on your back and rubbing in small circles , then standing and rubbing with the fingers up and down the breasts, and squeezing the nipples for any discharge. and if you want me to do anything else it’s going to be a PM

Unbroken's avatar

I don’t check myself. I have also read articles about the possible inefficacy and potential danger of mammograms. As well as masectomies esp when they are double, as a preventative measure.

In all fairness I have no close relatives affected by breast cancer and by the time I had friends who suffered I had a pile of health issues on my own. So therefore their trauma seemed part of life rather then something that impressed itself on my psyche. And I usually have a spectrum of blood labs done at the very least every other month I figure this is the most telling indicator of cancer.

Um that being said I have a friend who once a year goes for a full body scan not ct but another type that she is really impressed with. If ever this became an important issue for me I would check into that.

As to irrational fears the only time I worry about it is when I have a lover that likes heavy boobplay and I mean twisting squeezing etc. They are glands and sometimes my imagination of what could be happening inside as a result of pressure… Slightly non amorous.

Headhurts's avatar

No, I don’t.

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