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Are Breast Self-Exams Still a Valuable Tool?

Study Shows No Reduction in Breast Cancer Deaths Among Women Who Self-Examine

WebMD Health News

March 17, 2004 (Hamburg, Germany) -- Most women have endured the lecture in a doctor's office on precisely how and how often they should conduct a breast self-examination (BSE). Many women have also felt guilty because they don't think they do BSE exactly right or often enough.

Now a study by Russian investigators, involving nearly 200,000 women, shows that the breast self-exam is not associated with reduced breast cancer mortality. However, some experts say that focusing on breast cancer mortality misses the point and overlooks its other benefits.

According to a study by Vladimir F. Semiglazov, MD, an oncologist at the N.N. Petrov Research Institute of Oncology in St. Petersburg, Russia, women who received intensive training in breast self-exams had similar rates of cancers diagnosed and deaths due to breast cancer as did women who received no training.

"The breast cancer mortality rate was not reduced in the group that received training in BSE," Lars Holmberg, MD, tells WebMD.

The study shows that we need more sensitive screening instruments, such as mammography to detect breast abnormalities, says Holmberg, who is a spokesman for the European Breast Cancer Conference and a professor of clinical cancer epidemiology at the Regional Oncological Center at Uppsala University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden.

"However, it would be wrong to conclude that women should not be aware of their bodies and symptoms," he says.

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