Self-exam and doctor’s-exam find similar breast tumors
(Reuters) – Women’s self-exams and physical exams by a doctor both detect breast cancer tumors at about the same size, but older women are more likely to have a tumor discovered via doctor’s examination, according to a new Swiss study.
The authors, led by Fabienne Dominique Schwab of University Hospital Basel, conclude that breast exams by doctors should be an integral part of general medical care for older women.
“What they essentially said was there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in these two modes of detection except that older women were more likely to have their cancers detected by clinical exam,” said Dr. Robert Smith, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia who was not involved in the new study.
The authors considered tumor size, location and detection method for 948 women treated in Switzerland between 1990 and 2009.
In 236 women, doctors found the tumors during an exam, while 712 women had discovered their own tumors.
Women who found their own tumors had an average age of 60, compared to an average age of nearly 66 for women whose tumors were found through clinical breast exam. Both methods found the same number of tumors in the same locations and of similar size, averaging 22 millimeters (about 9/10ths of an inch), the authors write.
Tumors in the central region of the breast tended to be larger – an average of 25 mm versus about 19-21 mm for those at the periphery – the authors reported in the journal The Breast.
Doctors and women who perform regular self-examinations should pay particular attention to the central region, the authors advise.
Older women may be more likely to overlook or neglect breast lumps, and less likely to go for mammograms, so doctors tend to discover more tumors of their tumors, the study team writes.