In 2003, the American Cancer Society changed the guidelines on breast self-exams (BSEs), saying that they no longer recommended regular self-exams as part of a woman's healthcare routine.
Almost two decades have passed since the guidelines changed, but many women are still confused by this suggestion. Self-exams are easy: They take only a few minutes per month, can be done in the privacy of your own home and are also free. If self-exams were considered such a crucial part of women's health for so long, why would we stop doing them?
The breast self-exam was first introduced in the 1930s as a method for catching breast cancer in its early stages. In 1947, the American Cancer Society began a widespread campaign, "Cancer's Danger Signals: Look for a lump or thickening in the breast." In the 1950s and 1960s, the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute sponsored a film demonstrating