Three separate studies have shown that women who practice breast self-exams (BSE) find more benign breast conditions than women who do not perform BSE do. However, the studies found that the rate of breast cancer diagnoses was the same in both groups, and there was no difference in breast cancer death rates. In general, women who choose to practice BSE also make other health-conscious choices, and, as a result, have lower all-cause mortality than women who do not make healthy-living choices. That is, these women are less likely to die from breast cancer, but they are also less likely to die from heart disease, accidents, or other causes. On average, there is no evidence to show that BSE either helps or harms women who practice it. So, the choice is simply up to you.
A Answers (2)
Patrick Maguire, MD, Oncology, answeredNeither breast self exam by patients nor clinical breast examination by doctors has been proven effective in the studies that have evaluated them. Since many women have heard for years to do breast exams each month and to see their doctors for an exam each year, this information may be puzzling. The bottom line is that most lumps felt by both patients and doctors won't be malignant (cancerous). Therefore, the majority of these masses that are felt will generate further evaluation, anxiety, costs, and often invasive biopsies that won't lead to an early cancer diagnosis and improved cure rate. However, some will be cancer. Lack of statistical benefit in a medical study does not mean that women should disregard any visible or palpable changes that they notice in their breasts. It's very helpful to be attuned to clues such as a new lump, redness, dimpling of the skin, etc., and notify one's doctor. In the author's experience, countless patients have found their cancers early by being in tune, literally in touch, with their bodies