Is it true that breast self-exams are no longer recommended? Do you need an annual mammogram? Thanks!
Answer by OB-GYN Karen S. Carlson, MD:
Yes, most medical organizations do not recommend routine self-breast exams because research has not shown that self-breast exams improve cancer detection or outcomes. However, most organizations recommend self-breast awareness, or familiarizing yourself with the normal look and feel of your breasts. If you notice a change in your breasts, tell your OB-GYN right away.
On the other hand, mammograms are effective in detecting breast cancer. Mammograms can detect breast abnormalities years before physical symptoms. Early detection means better outcomes: If breast cancer is caught early, the 5-year survival rate is 99%.
Although breast self-examination is not necessary, mammograms are essential for women’s health. The American Cancer Society recommends an annual mammogram for women age 45 and older. Other organizations suggest getting a mammogram somewhere between ages 40 and 50 and recommend every two years. Women at high risk for breast cancer may need early screening with other tests, such as ultrasound or MRI.
Screening for breast cancer should be individualized, a decision made between the patient and her health care provider.