Self-detection remains a key method of breast cancer detection for U.S. women

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Aug;20(8):1135-9. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.2493. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Purpose: The method by which breast cancer is detected becomes a factor for long-term survival and should be considered in treatment plans. This report describes patient characteristics and time trends for various methods of breast cancer detection in the United States.

Methods: The 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative self-report health survey, included 361 women survivors diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003. Responses to the question, How was your breast cancer found? were categorized as accident, self-examination, physician during routine breast examination, mammogram, and other. We examined responses by income, race, age, and year of diagnosis.

Results: Most women survivors (57%) reported a detection method other than mammographic examination. Women often detected breast cancers themselves, either by self-examination (25%) or by accident (18%).

Conclusions: Despite increased use of screening mammography, a large percentage of breast cancers are detected by the patients themselves. Patient-noted breast abnormalities should be carefully evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Breast Self-Examination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Mammography
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Survival Rate
  • Women's Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health Services / organization & administration
  • Women's Health Services / statistics & numerical data