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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2009 Jul;18(7):1019-24. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2008.1076.

The attitudes of women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations toward clinical breast examinations and breast self-examinations.

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  • 1Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



In screening studies of women with BRCA mutations, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plus mammography has >90% sensitivity for detecting breast cancer, with negligible benefit from the addition of breast self-examination (BSE) or clinical breast examination (CBE). Yet CBE is still frequently recommended, and BSE is encouraged for these women. We sought to determine the attitudes of high-risk women toward CBE and BSE.


Between November 2005 and May 2006, 137 women with BRCA mutations participating in a screening study consisting of annual MRI and mammography plus semiannual CBE were asked to complete a mailed Likert-type questionnaire.


Of the 94 (67%) respondents, mean age 47 (range 28-67), 94% strongly agreed or agreed that CBE was an important way to detect breast cancer, and almost all believed it provided an important connection to the healthcare team. Only 10% said it increased anxiety. Of the 71 (77%) who performed BSE at least occasionally, 53 thought that regular BSE gave them a sense of control over their own health. Of the 21(23%) who did not practice BSE at all, only 3 did not believe that BSE was helpful, and it made 9 more worried about breast cancer


Although CBE adds little to cancer detection rates in women with BRCA mutations screened with MRI, the majority of these women considered CBE to be reassuring and an important means of connecting with the healthcare team. Compliance with BSE was only moderate, but it gave a significant proportion of women a greater sense of control.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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