Keeping Abreast with Cancer

The latest news on breast cancer has many women wondering what to do now.

By Colin Allen, published on October 1, 2002 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

The latest word on breast cancer: self-examinations do not lower
the risk. A new study released on October 2 by the
Journal of the National Cancer Institutefound that
the same number of women died from breast cancer, whether or not they
were familiar with self-examinations. Some 266,064 Chinese women
participated in the Shanghai-based 10-year study. Many women must now
decide what to make of the findings.

"Doing a breast self-exam has no downside. All it could have is an
upside," says Sandra Haber, Ph.D., a specialist in breast cancer. "It
does not make logical sense to abandon it." Even if self-exams have been
found less effective, argues Haber, this research does not prove that
they are without value.

As a psychological tool, breast self-examinations help women cope
with cancer, a disease they have little control over. Also, in a broader
sense, exams promote a healthier lifestyle. "You are doing something
within your control and you are taking good care of yourself," says
Haber. "You want people to take charge of their lives and make good
health decisions."

"For any one woman that will do an exam and will locate breast
cancer in its very early stages, thus saving her life," Haber explains,
"that's terrific."