Breast self-awareness education

Also known as: Breast self-examination

A breast self-examination involves checking your breasts to help detect breast problems or changes. Many breast problems are first discovered by women themselves, often by accident. Breast lumps can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Breast cancer can occur at any age, though it is most common in women older than 50.

Medical experts disagree about the need for regular breast self-examinations. A large study showed that regular breast self-examinations led to more doctor visits but did not find breast cancer earlier than regular medical examinations. Some experts believe that the harms outweigh the benefits. Others consider breast self-examinations an option for women. Talk with your health professional about breast self-examination.

At Providence, achieving optimal breast health and providing world-class treatment for breast cancer are equal priorities in our continuing mission to improve women’s health. Providence Breast Centers offer comprehensive access to state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging techniques to ensure accurate and timely diagnoses.

Ask An Expert

Ask an Expert: Breast self-examinations

Q. I’m a young woman who tries to do breast self exams (BSE's) every month. But I often put them off because they make me so nervous. I just heard that not all health care organizations recommend monthly BSE's. What do you say?

Answer from the expert staff of breast cancer research at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Portland Medical Center:

Ask an Expert: When is nipple discharge a concern?

Q: “I am concerned about some discharge from one of my breasts. If I squeeze the nipple, I get a dark greenish fluid. Sometimes it also occurs spontaneously. I mentioned this during my last physical exam, but my mammogram appeared to be OK. Should I do anything else, or just wait for my next mammogram? If it’s nothing to be concerned about, what is causing it?”

Forms Instructions

New Guidelines for Mammography Screening

Breast health experts at Providence Health & Services recognize the importance and complexity of counseling women on breast health and screening recommendations. In November 2009, the US Preventive Services Task Force issued updated guidelines for breast cancer screening. These new recommendations have been met with uneven acceptance from various foundations, professional organizations and breast health providers.

We have reviewed these new recommendations carefully and have engaged a number of concerned providers, physicians and women’s health advocates in order to gain consensus around this important issue. In general, Providence endorses the thorough, professional and evidence-based effort put forth by the USPSTF and recognizes these are difficult issues to analyze.

Proprietary Health Article

Breast cancer chemoprevention in the spotlight again

After a tentative start, chemopreventive therapies might return to the forefront.  A recent international study reports promising results. – By Ali Conlin, M.D., medical oncologist

Recommended Resource

American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society’s home page with links to all types of cancer, symptoms, treatment options, statistics trials and ways to contribute. 

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