Breast self-exams: Should you or shouldn't you?

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 to your health care provider; he or she can help you decide whether or not breast self-examination is right for you.