Breast Self-Exams as Effective as Mammograms

Wednesday 19th, February 2014 / 10:01 Published by

A Fresh Case for Breast Self-Exams

Scientists produced dismal news last week about mammograms. After tracking 90,000 women for 25 years, researchers in Canada found that those who received regular mammograms did not experience fewer deaths from breast cancer or from all causes, compared with those who did not.

But buried in the news was a nugget of hope: The women who did not receive regular mammograms were instead monitored with physical breast exams that proved effective. All of the participants were taught to examine their own breasts once a month, and specially trained nurses examined women who were in their 50s. This low-tech approach, the researchers found, appeared to be as good as or better than regular mammograms at locating the serious cancers that needed treatment.

The study authors are hesitant to draw any firm conclusions, because they did not set out to study manual breast exams per se. But as the data came in, “I began to feel that what the trial was showing was that clinical breast exam was effective and could substitute for mammography, if it was performed well and was accompanied by the teaching of breast self-exam,” said Dr. Anthony B. Miller of the University of Toronto, the study’s lead author.

That is a very different message from what women have been hearing.

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