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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

Exam Still Useful continued...

"They think that because the intensive teaching of BSE doesn't reduce mortality, that women shouldn't examine their breasts," says Bevers, who was not involved in the study. "I firmly believe that women need to know what their breasts feel like and promptly report any change. This study says there's no right way to do it. Women already do a great job; they can find masses without anyone instructing them." Bevers is chairwoman of the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Panel of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

She says that enormous amounts of resources are used to teach women how to do the specific system of breast self-exam, ranging from individual doctor office visits to the printing of shower cards. "I say, 'Know what your breasts feel like and report changes.' If you don't feel a difference, there's probably nothing different. If you feel something different, call your doctor. There's no magic to checking your breasts."

"This is not the first study to show that BSE does not reduce breast cancer mortality, but there are other benefits," says Lawrence D. Wagman, MD, chairman of the division of surgery at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. "It would be interesting to know if women who do BSE [also] get their blood pressure checked more frequently, for example, since they may have more follow-up trips to the doctor to report changes. A lot of the strategies we use to get women in for mammograms are teachable moments for other wellness issues."


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