By: 3 April 2013

A new initiative to encourage women to check themselves regularly for lumps has been launched by BE-gLOVE.

This is a part of BE-gLOVE’s ‘Time to Touch’ campaign, to encourage women to perform regular breast self-examinations (BSEs) and urge health professionals to endorse this to their patients and help continue to spread the word.

Educating women on how to carry out a correct and thorough exam is essential for effectiveness of detection. Women are advised to lie down to allow the breast tissue to spread evenly, and lift the corresponding arm behind the head when examining the breast. Women should also be informed to examine each underarm for lumps. The initiative suggests making Friday the allocated day for BSE to ensure weekly checks.

It is accepted that over 90 percent of breast carcinoma tumours are actually discovered by patients themselves or their partners rather than mammography screening. An Italian study carried out by Stefano Veradi et al suggests that carrying out mammography screenings is no longer justified and equipping women with the knowledge and skill to perform their own examination is the best way to detect breast tumours early.

“There are immediate needs for a large-scale crash programme for training nurses in how to perform annual clinical breast examinations (CBEs) and how to teach BSE,” said Veradi. “This need is critical for underinsured and uninsured low-socioeconomic and ethnic women.”

“In spite of [much] evidence [to the contrary], the American Chemical Society (ACS) and radiologists persist in their dismissiveness of CBE and BSE, particularly as ‘a substitute for screening practices that have a “proven” benefit such as mammograms’,” wrote Veradi et al. “The National Cancer Institute (NCI) no longer prints a BSE guide in its breast cancer booklet, claiming ‘no studies have clearly shown a benefit of using BSE’; similarly, the ACS no longer distributes information on BSE, such as shower-hanger cards.”

According to the authors, CBEs and BSEs are very effective methods of detection and should be advocated, as their only disadvantage is a ‘false positive’, which can be assessed and confirmed as benign by a patient’s doctor.

The study also promotes the use of the Donna Glove to perform the breast examinations, as it increases the sensitivity of palpitations. Out of 130 women involved in the study, half were given the Donna Glove and half used their bare hand to perform the exam. Both groups were given the same BSE instructions. The results show a significant difference in detection between glove-users and those using bare hands, with 100 percent detection rate in the former and only 48 percent detection in the latter group.