Self breast checks 'pointless'

17:00, May 13 2010

Self breast examinations are a waste of time, according to a leading New Zealand breast cancer doctor.

Auckland's Dr John Harman, a founding member of the Breast Cancer Research Trust, told a group of 100 women attending the Dairy Women's Network national conference in New Plymouth that checking themselves for lumps was pointless.

"By the time a woman finds a lump, it's 2.5cm across and has been in the breast for 10 years," Dr Harman said. "I have trouble finding breast cancer, I don't know how you'd find it. Don't waste your time. Either spend the money on a mammogram every year or use a government programme."

Dr Harman said trials held in China and the United Kingdom found self breast examinations did not help with early detection.

"Even if it was any good you will find the cancer too late to give much of an improvement or benefit."

Self-examination tended to concern women for the wrong reasons. "They feel lumps and wonder what's a lump and what's a cancer. A breast cancer can be anything from a subtle mark to a hard lump, a slight dimpling of the skin to a slight fullness of the breast to anything."

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He said women should focus on getting regular mammograms and ultra sounds from the age of 40.

Dr Harman and Breast Cancer Research Trust ambassador and TV personality Carol Hirschfeld spoke on the research they hope will help their objective of find-ing a cure for the disease by 2018.

Ann Shaw, health promotion co-ordinator for Breast Screen Coast to Coast, said women and men could get too hung up on lumps.

Dr Stephen Kyle from the Taranaki District Health Board said breast cancer rates in the region were increasing with 68 deaths in 2007, 96 in 2008 and 104 last year.

"It is increasing in the western world and Taranaki is no exception," Dr Kyle said.

Taranaki Daily News