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Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling

Instruction and encouragement take the worry away, researcher says

THURSDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Women were 10 times more likely to do breast self-examinations if they took part in an brief intervention program that included one counseling session and two follow-up phone calls, a U.S. study has found.

The research involved more than 600 women, ages 40 to 70, who'd had a negative mammogram screening in the previous two months. They were given either dietary counseling with no mention of breast self-exams or a 30- to 45-minute counseling session about breast self-exam that included an educational video, practicing self-exam on a silicone model and a discussion of possible barriers to doing self-exams. This group also received follow-up phone calls one and two months later.

Before the study began, about 6 percent of the participants were doing at least five-minute self-exams every month using proper techniques.

A year later, 59 percent of the women in the self-exam counseling group were performing adequate self-exams, compared with 12 percent of those in the dietary counseling group.

"Many women avoid breast self-exams, because they are worried about doing them correctly," the study's lead author, Nangel Lindberg, an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said in a Kaiser news release. "However, our study showed that with a relatively simple intervention, women can learn the proper technique. And once they feel confident, they will continue to do their exams."

Self-exams are one way for women "to participate in their own health care," Lindberg said. "Self-exams allow women to become familiar with their breasts, so they can report any changes to their health-care providers."

The study is in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Early detection is an important factor in the success of breast cancer treatment. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly 40,000 die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about breast self-exams.

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, April 30, 2009

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