One of the reasons why breast cancers are discovered late is because of this statement usually made by patients when advised to do regular breast self-exam: “I am afraid of doing breast self-exam because I may discover something which may be breast cancer.”
Over the years, I have been battling with this resistance when I keep on advising patients to do regular breast self-exam as this promotes early discovery of breast cancer when it develops.
Last week, I encountered another patient saying the same thing. I tried to help this patient overcome this kind of fear by doing a nitty-gritty proposition.
Starting point: Not doing regular breast self-exam because of fear of discovering something bad (assumptions: they know how to do breast self-exam; they care about discovering breast cancer early)
If you do regular breast self-exam, if you discover nothing unusual, you have a better peace of mind.
If you don’t do regular breast self-exam, you have no peace of mind because you don’t know whether you have something bad in your breasts.
If you don’t do regular breast self-exam, you usually do one of these things:
- Keep on not doing breast self-exam. Then you continue to have no peace of mind because you don’t know whether you have something bad in your breasts.
- Subject yourself to screening diagnostic tests like mammogram and ultrasound at planned intervals without a breast specialist consult. You somehow will have a better peace of mind if the reports are negative.
- Consult a breast specialist at planned intervals. Then, you have better peace of mind if the findings are negative.
If you do screening diagnostic tests and consult a breast specialist at planned intervals, you still have to contend with the time or period wherein there are no tests or breast specialist’s examination and when a breast cancer can appear.
You still have to do regular breast self-exam in the time or period where there are no tests or breast specialist’s examination because breast cancer can appear during this time. You cannot have monthly diagnostic tests and / or breast specialist’s examination.
Thus, you really have to do regular monthly breast self-exam if you really want to catch an early breast cancer that may appear and if you want to have a better peace of mind.
Case in Point (Actual Incident) on the Importance of Breast Self-examination:
GS, 47-year-old female, had a mammography on March 19, 2016 which reported BIRADS 2-0 (benign findings). There was no mass seen nor suspicious tight clusters of microcalcifications. In other words, no signal for cancer. In May 2016, she palpated a mass on her right breast. She then consulted a breast specialist. She was operated on July 2016. A 5-cm breast cancer mass was noted.