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Breast self-exam, or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. Although no single test can detect all breast cancers early, many people report that performing a breast self-exam in combination with other screening methods can increase the odds of early detection. Through the years, there has been some debate among medical experts about how valuable breast self-examination is in detecting breast cancer early and increasing the likelihood of survival. For example, a 2008 study of nearly 400,000 women in Russia and China reported that breast self-examination does not have a meaningful effect on breast cancer survival rates and may even cause harm by prompting unnecessary removal and examination of suspicious tissue (biopsies). In response to this study and others like it, the American Cancer Society stopped recommending breast self-exam as a screening tool for women with an average risk of breast cancer. Still, at we recognize that breast self-examination can be a useful and important screening tool, especially when combined with: regular physical exams by a doctor mammography ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or both Each of these screening tools works in a different way and has strengths and weaknesses. Breast self-exam is a convenient, no-cost tool that you can use on a monthly basis and at any age as part of your overall breast cancer screening strategy.




Don’t panic if you think you feel a lump in your breast. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancer). There are a number of possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps, including normal hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you’ve noticed a lump or other breast change that is new and worrisome. This is especially true for changes that last more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way. If you menstruate, you may want to wait until after your period to see if the lump or other breast change disappears on its own before calling your doctor. The best healthcare provider to call is the one who knows you and has done a breast exam on you before — for example, your gynecologist, your primary care doctor, or a nurse practitioner who works with your gynecologist or primary care doctor. Know what to expect. At an appointment to evaluate a breast lump, your doctor takes a health history and does a physical exam of the breast, and most likely orders breast imaging tests. Ultrasound is often the first or only imaging test used to evaluate a lump in women who are younger than 30 or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Both an ultrasound and a mammogram are typically recommended to evaluate a lump in women who are older than 30 and not pregnant or breastfeeding. If further testing is needed, your doctor may recommend additional imaging with MRI, MBI (molecular breast imaging), a biopsy, or any combination of these tests. Your doctor may also refer you to a breast specialist (typically, a breast surgeon) for further evaluation. Make sure you get answers. It’s important that your doctor explains what is causing the lump or other breast changes and, if necessary, develops a plan for monitoring it or treating it. If you’re not comfortable with your doctor’s advice, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.



 Though the research is very limited, transgender men and women who have breast tissue are thought to be at a higher risk for breast cancer than cisgender men. Because of this, they may also consider performing breast or chest self-examinations on a monthly basis. Some medical guidelines recommend against this practice for transgender individuals, however, due to a lack of data to support its efficacy as well as the potential to produce harm (both psychological harm, as well as potential physical harm from an unnecessary biopsy). Although transgender men and non-binary people assigned female at birth may experience gender dysphoria when conducting self-examinations, following recommendations for breast cancer screening is the best way to protect yourself. Crucially, chest masculinization surgery does not remove all breast tissue, so even transgender people who have this surgery are at risk for breast cancer and should consider chest self-examinations and discuss a breast cancer screening imaging plan with their medical team. Symptoms associated with feminizing hormone therapy — such as breast pain, tenderness, and nodularity — may prompt transgender women and non-binary people assigned male at birth to perform overly frequent breast self-examinations, according to the University of California, San Francisco. Be aware that these symptoms may simply be due to breast growth, and talk to a medical provider if you are concerned.

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