Debunking 4 Common Misconceptions Regarding Self-Breast Examination for Breast Cancer

Numerous misconceptions surround self-examination for breast cancer, necessitating their debunking to promote accurate information for breast cancer prevention.

4 Myths and Facts about Self-Breast Examination for Breast Cancer
4 Myths and Facts about Self-Breast Examination for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer stands as the most widespread form of cancer in India, with an alarming rate of over a million cases annually. Primarily affecting women, this disease, however, holds promise of prevention and effective treatment if identified early. Self-breast examination emerges as the initial stride towards breast cancer prevention, facilitating the detection of potential symptoms through routine home screenings. Yet, amidst the widespread promotion of self-examination awareness, misconceptions have burgeoned within communities, leading individuals to embrace medically unverified beliefs. In this discourse, Dr. Sandip Bipte, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon at Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, endeavors to dispel prevalent myths surrounding self-breast examination with factual insights.

Breast cancer manifests as a malignant growth originating in breast cells, ranking among the most prevalent cancers in India. According to data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, breast cancer accounted for approximately 26.3% of all cancer diagnoses in 2020. While predominantly affecting women, breast cancer also affects men, albeit in smaller proportions, comprising 1 to 2% of all cases. Alarmingly, less than 1% of the Indian population opts for annual screening, resulting in over 50 to 60% of women being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Therefore, the significance of breast self-examination cannot be overstated, serving as a pivotal means to detect breast cancer at its nascent stage. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for monthly breast self-examination, recognizing its role in bolstering awareness among women regarding breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Mammography, clinical breast examination, and breast self-examination constitute the primary screening methods for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast self-examination is particularly recommended for women starting from their early twenties. It serves as a practical option, especially beneficial for rural areas, aiding in the timely detection of breast cancer.

Procedure for Self Breast Examination

Performing a self-breast exam (SBE) is a method to screen for any abnormalities such as lumps, thickened areas, or changes in breast tissue. Signs of concern that may indicate breast cancer include redness or rashes on the breast or nipple, alterations in breast size or shape, nipple inversion, breast or armpit pain, nipple discharge, and skin dimpling.

Conducting a breast self-exam is a convenient, cost-free, painless, safe, and non-invasive procedure that can be carried out at home. It empowers individuals to take charge of their health, gain awareness of their breast health status, and importantly, aids in the early detection of cancer.

However, various myths surrounding breast cancer may hinder accurate diagnosis and treatment. It’s essential to debunk these myths to ensure informed understanding:

MYTH: Breast self-exams prevent breast cancer

MYTH: Breast self-exams prevent breast cancer

FACT: Self-exams only aid in early detection; they do not prevent breast cancer. Regular examination helps in identifying any abnormalities promptly, prompting consultation with a healthcare professional.

MYTH: Regular self-breast exams save lives

MYTH: Regular self-breast exams save lives

FACT: While regular self-exams can aid in early detection, they do not guarantee life-saving outcomes. Some studies suggest that frequent self-exams may lead to unnecessary anxiety and medical interventions for benign conditions. However, they remain valuable, especially in areas with limited access to medical facilities.

MYTH: All breast lumps can be detected through self-exams

FACT: Although self-exams aim to identify cancerous lumps, not all are detectable through this method. Deeper or denser lumps may be challenging to detect through self-exams.

MYTH: Self-breast exams are recommended for all women

FACT: While self-exams are beneficial, some healthcare professionals recommend annual check-ups instead, as monthly self-exams may cause undue anxiety or instill false security. However, self-exams can still aid in early detection in certain cases.

Factors influencing self-breast exam practice include marital status, income, family history, medical history, perceived barriers, motivation, and self-efficacy. Effective health education, including awareness campaigns and skills training, can encourage regular self-exam practice and improve breast health outcomes.