Knowing what’s normal for your body means you’re more likely to recognise something different. Spotting cancer at an early stage can save lives.
Lots of people talk about the importance of breast or testicle ‘self-checks’ (also known as self-examinations or self-exams) to try and spot cancer early. But does regularly checking your breasts, testicles or other parts of your body help spot cancer earlier? Or could it actually do more harm than good?
It’s a good idea from time to time to look at and feel your breasts. But there’s no need to do this regularly at a set time or in a set way. Research has shown that women who regularly self-check their breasts aren’t any less likely to die from breast cancer. But they are almost twice as likely to have a biopsy of a lump that turns out not to be cancer.
So the evidence tells us that regularly checking your breasts doesn’t reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer, but might mean you have unnecessary investigations.
But it’s still a good idea to get to know your body generally (not just your breasts) and keep an eye out for any changes.
Scientists reviewed the evidence and found no studies of a good enough quality to determine whether testicular self-exams are effective. Regular testicular self-exams may cause unnecessary investigations and anxiety if they pick up harmless lumps that are not cancerous. It’s still a good idea to look at and feel your testicles every now and then, but there’s no need to worry about doing it regularly in a set way at a set time.