A decade-long study has thrown doubt onto the effectiveness of the most common breast cancer screening tool used by women around the world--breast self-examination. The study concludes that self-exams do not detect tumors early enough to reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer, and as a result, teaching women how to perform the self-exams may be a waste of time and money. The study, published in the October 2 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, involved more than 266,000 women in Shanghai. It showed that women who performed self-exams did not have a lower incidence of death from breast cancer than women who did not perform the exams. The only positive results seen from the study were that women who performed self-exams found more benign lumps that required medical attention than women who did not conduct self-exams.
"In developing countries, where mammographic screening is not available, it would not seem to be a good use of the limited funds available for preventive services to promote the practice of BSE," the study says. An editorial accompanying the study in the journal recommends that U.S. doctors stop teaching women how to perform self-exams and instead devote their time and energy toward clinical exams.