For years, monthly breast self-exams (BSEs) were touted as paramount to early breast cancer detection. So, why aren't we hearing much about them anymore?
The Susan G. Komen Foundation reports, "Although it seemed promising when it was first introduced, studies have shown BSE does not offer the early detection and survival benefits of other screening tests. A meta-analysis combined the results of the two largest randomized controlled trials on BSE. It found no difference in breast cancer survival between women who did routine BSE and those who did not. And, women who did BSE had more false positive results, leading to nearly twice as many biopsies with benign (not cancer) results as women who did not do BSE."
"There may be more of a net harm than benefit," said Nisha McKenzie, PA-C at Grand Rapids OB/GYN, explained. "Finding a lump creates extra anxiety, and there's a high risk of false positives. Conversely, not finding any lumps may give women a false sense of security."
The Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center reports, "With most breast cancers, each [cell] division takes one to two months, so by the time you can feel a cancerous lump, the cancer has been in your body for two to five years ... long enough to have had a chance to spread. What it really underscores is the importance of regular mammograms. These screening tests can usually detect breast cancer when it's about one-quarter inch in size or smaller—a year or more before it would be detectable by hand."
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