Breast Self-Exams: No Survival Benefit
Review Shows No Breast Cancer Survival Benefit in Women Who Do Regular Breast Self-Exams
WebMD News Archive
Do Breast Self-Exams or Not? continued...
"Certainly, if any woman wants to do breast self-exam, then her doctor
should give her assistance and make sure that her technique is what it should
be, and also let her know what the limitations are so that she's not expecting
that this is going to have big impact on her if she gets breast cancer,"
Susan Love, MD, president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love
Research Foundation, calls the review a "wake-up call to say, 'You know
what? We've been relying on things that don't work that well and we really have
to start demanding something that works better.'"
Breast Awareness Is Key
The review doesn't support breast-self-exams. But it does urge women to be
aware of -- and seek prompt medical assessment of -- any breast changes.
"Whenever one notices symptoms which could be breast cancer or any other
cancer, one should not hesitate to seek a doctor for rapid assessment,"
Kosters tells WebMD.
To Saslow, the key message is to get medical attention for any breast lumps,
whether those lumps are found during a breast self-exam or "in the shower
or getting dressed or looking in the mirror or her husband [notices
The review "doesn't say never touch your breasts again. It says that the
normal poking around that we all do is enough, and that formal ... breast
self-exam doesn't add to that," says Love, who calls the review
"Where we really should be putting our efforts is how to prevent breast
cancer, not how to find cancers that are already there, but how can we make it
not happen in the first place," Love says. "If we could get to a point
where we're not even looking for cancer, we're looking for cells that might be
cancer some day when they grow up, then we have a more reasonable chance to get
rid of this disease."
The review doesn't mean that breast self-exams haven't helped individual
women. Good Morning America anchor
Robin Roberts said in 2007 that she found the lump that turned out to be
breast cancer during a breast self-exam.
But in large groups of women, the numbers aren't there to show a survival
benefit, Kosters and colleagues report.