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Am J Public Health. 1981 Jun;71(6):583-90.

Breast self-examination and medical examination related to breast cancer stage.


The frequency and type of breast examinations reported by 1,216 primary breast cancer patients was studied in relation to local stage of disease. No significant relationship was found between the reported frequency of breast self-examination (BSE) and stage of disease; however, annual medical examination was significantly associated with small tumor size (P less than .04) and absence of axillary lymph node metastases (P less than .001). Regardless of the frequency of any method of examination, the majority (80 per cent) of tumors were first detected by the patients. Among those who detected their lesion, a greater frequency of medical examination was associated with an earlier pathological stage of disease (P less than .001). Patients who were examined more frequently by a physician appeared to be more sensitive to clinically significant breast abnormalities. These findings underscore the importance of examiner skill in the successful use of palpation to detect breast cancer. Instruction in BSE by a health professional during periodic examinations may provide the optimal opportunity for improved proficiency in self-examination.

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