Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, but each year, more and more women are becoming survivors – thanks to early detection and advances in treatment options.

We recently received this question from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,

Are breast self-exams really necessary if you get annual check-ups with your OB/GYN?

Yes, breast self-exams are important – even if you are getting an annual checkup.

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There has been some controversy about this topic over the past few years – some research suggests that doing self-exams won’t necessarily increase your chances of survival if you do find cancer.

And one study that followed nearly 300,000 Chinese women over a period of 12 years found that those women who did breast self-exams did not find any more cancers than those who did not.

Even though a self-exam may not be able to pick up microscopic cancer cells, it’s important to become familiar with your body. I encourage all of my patients to do self-exams.

Here are the changes you should be on the lookout for:

• Skin irritation or dimpling
• Red or scaly skin
• Nipple pain or retraction
• Discharge
• Lumps or swelling

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be sure to report any changes to your doctor.

If you have a question that you would like Dr. Manny to answer, e-mail him at DrManny@foxnews.com.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.