National Breast Cancer Coalition

Myth #1: Monthly breast self exams save lives

FALSE. The evidence actually shows that breast self-exam (BSE) does not save lives or detect breast cancer at an earlier stage.

For decades, women age 20 and older have studied shower cards, read pamphlets, watched videos and prodded silicon breast models to find a hidden lump - each resource teaching BSE as a life-saving personal responsibility. Seems to make sense. In reality, there is no scientific evidence to prove this is true. In fact, the studies that have been done show an increase in potential harm from monthly, regimented BSE including elevated anxiety, more frequent physician visits and unnecessary biopsies of benign lumps.

Many organizations share NBCC's viewpoint on BSE. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) no longer prints a BSE guide; the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against health care providers teaching breast self-examination; and the American Cancer Society is phasing out materials that focus only on breast self-exam.