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Experts Debate Merits Of Self-Breast Exams

Posted July 12, 2001

— Are self-exams of the breast bad for you -- even dangerous? That's what some researchers claim. The news is alarming to many women, but is it true?

The controversy is over

a report

in which a panel of scientists gave self-exams of the breast a failing grade. They point out several studies claiming there is little evidence that the exams save lives. In fact, they went as far as to recommend that women should no longer be taught those exams.

Norma Grady was shocked to hear about an article in Time Magazine. In it, Canadian scientists claim that self-exams of the breast are not a good idea.

"I didn't read the article to be honest. I looked at it and said this is not correct, so I did not read it," she says. "I've been doing self breast exams for probably 30 years or more."

Norma has reason to be angry. While doing her monthly self-exam, she discovered a lump in her breast. It turned out to be cancerous.

Dr. Julie Taber, director of Rex Hospital's Breast Care Center, also read the articles. She says what is missing from many of them is the rebuttal from other scientists.

"The rebuttal that was published along with this made mention of the fact that it was important to look at the fact that these did happen in China and Russia because health care is very different there than in the United States," she says.

The Canadian scientists also failed to look at the two other components of breast health -- a clinical exam by your doctor and mammograms. What the research does do is shed light on the controversy over self-exams.

One thing critics of self-exams of the breast point out is that most lumps are not cancerous. Eighty percent are benign, but experts say every lump needs to be check out by your doctor.

Some experts argue it does not matter when you do the exams. You may not need to do it every month. But one thing doctors do agree on -- women need to know their bodies.


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