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Breast self-examinations: Who does them and why

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In a population of 158 women with a breast concern, two-thirds examined their own breasts. Most examiners (80%) practiced breast self-examination at least once a month, and over 60% had been regular examiners for more than 2 years. No significant difference in frequency of breast self-examination was found between women who had been examiners for longer and shorter time periods. Examiners had two main reasons for beginning and continuing breast self-examination: (1) an awareness that it is desirable to detect breast cancer early and (2) an awareness that they themselves could get breast cancer, while nonexaminers tended to deny this possibility. Therefore, to become examiners, nonexaminers may need to be convinced not only that early detection is effective but also that they too are at risk of breast cancer. The importance of informing, but not alarming, women about their breast cancer risk is discussed.

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This work was supported by Public Health Service Grant CA 13556 from the National Cancer Institute.

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Kelly, P.T. Breast self-examinations: Who does them and why. J Behav Med 2, 31–38 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00846561

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Key words

  • breast cancer
  • breast self-examination
  • denial of risk
  • fear of cancer