Every day we take preventative measures to keep ourselves alive—we glance up from our emoji keyboards to look both ways before crossing the street (😵). We scream bloody murder at our co-worker with strep throat to stay 100 feet back. And we schedule doctor appointments for routine checkups.
But when it comes to doing a breast self-exam for lumps or weirdness—something our gynos have been telling us to do since day one—why are health experts so against it? "Most of the large breast cancer organizations do not recommend monthly breast self exams (BSEs) anymore," says Susan Brown, M.S., R.N., the managing director of health and mission program education at Susan G. Koman. "This came about after a 2002 study called the 'Shanghai study.'"
A little background: Researchers from that study wanted to determine whether intensive BSE programs—teaching 132,979 women breast anatomy, breast cancer statistics, detailed BSE technique and regularly following up with them—actually reduced the number of women dying from this disease as opposed to women (133,085) who did not receive this training. Between 1991 and 2000 scientists monitored both groups and in the end, 135 women died from breast cancer in the instructed group while 131 women died in the control set. As you can see, BSEs did nothing. In general, Brown also cites a lack of women *actually* doing these tests and poor technique when examining their bodies to fault BSEs.
But that doesn't mean it's all a lost cause. "We sill acknowledge women knowing what [their breasts] are normal is like," says Brown. "If you notice a change in how your breasts look or feel, you should seek out care from a healthcare provider." And that entails looking out for these signs:
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkness around your breast.
- Change in size and shape of your breast.
- Dimpling or puckering of your skin near your chest.
- Itchy, scaly sores or rashes on the nipple.
- Nipples or other parts of your breast pulling/caving in.
- Sudden nipple discharge.
- New pain in a certain spot that doesn't go away.
Even if none of those symptoms sound familiar to you, you should still talk to your parents about any possible history of breast cancer in your family—knowing your past can help your primary physician understand your potential risks.
If something above does strike a nerve, remain calm. Mammography—a common tool to locate breast lumps—is usually reserved as routine checkups for women in their 40s. Why not earlier? When you're in your 20s, your breasts are much denser, making it difficult for radiologists to spot any abnormalities—but mammograms may still be necessary should a doctor notice something troubling. Should you bring up concerns with your doc, they'll perform a clinical breast exam. Based off those results, they'll then most likely send you to an imaging center for a mammogram or a breast ultrasound. From those tests, a biopsy may be suggested, says Brown.
The only way to be absolutely sure breast cancer is the correct diagnosis is by getting tissues or cells examined through a biopsy. So until you go through all these measures, keep a close watch on your twins.
Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.
Marie Claire Newsletter
Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
When I'm not stalking future-but-never-going-to-happen husbands on Facebook, you can catch me eating at one of NYC's B-rated or below dining establishments—A-rated restaurants are for basics. Fun fact: Bloody Marys got me into eating celery on the regular. And for your safety, please do not disturb before 10 a.m. or coffee, whichever comes first.
Linda Evangelista Is "Not Interested" in Dating: "I Don't Want to Hear Somebody Breathing"
By Iris Goldsztajn
Taylor Swift Did NOT Announce 'Reputation (Taylor's Version)' on Sunday Despite All the Signs Pointing to It
What does it mean???
By Iris Goldsztajn
'Twilight' Director Says Jacob Elordi Would Make the "Perfect" Edward Cullen in a Reboot
Oh my gosh, totally.
By Iris Goldsztajn
Senator Klobuchar: "Early Detection Saves Lives. It Saved Mine"
Senator and breast cancer survivor Amy Klobuchar is encouraging women not to put off preventative care any longer.
By Senator Amy Klobuchar
How Being a Plus-Size Nude Model Made Me Finally Love My Body
I'm plus size, but after I decided to pose nude for photos, I suddenly felt more body positive.
By Kelly Burch
I'm an Egg Donor. Why Was It So Difficult for Me to Tell People That?
Much like abortion, surrogacy, and IVF, becoming an egg donor was a reproductive choice that felt unfit for society’s standards of womanhood.
By Lauryn Chamberlain
The 20 Best Probiotics to Keep Your Gut in Check
Gut health = wealth.
By Julia Marzovilla
Simone Biles Is Out of the Team Final at the Tokyo Olympics
She withdrew from the event due to a medical issue, according to USA Gymnastics.
By Rachel Epstein
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
We're going to need you to stop right there.
By Kenny Thapoung
3 Women On What It’s Like Living With An “Invisible” Condition
Despite having no outward signs, they can be brutal on the body and the mind. Here’s how each woman deals with having illnesses others often don’t understand.
By Emily Shiffer
The High Price of Living With Chronic Pain
Three women open up about how their conditions impact their bodies—and their wallets.
By Alice Oglethorpe