The Mystery Uncovered: Breast Self-Exams

A historical look at the importance of breast self-exams

The history behind the importance of breast self-exams is confusing at best, but there is light , and PROOF, at the end of the tunnel for keeping this healthy ritual. We’ve designed an infographic that outlines the key moments in breast self-exam history.

  1. BSE (breast self-exam) was first presented as a tool for early detection of breast cancer in the 1930’s
  2. The first studies evaluating its effectiveness were not presented until the early 1970’s and had conflicting results
  3. Women remain confused about proper technique and what to look for, and therefore continued to rely on their CBE (clinical breast exam) performed by their doctor
  4. In 2002, two studies results were published, in which both found no decrease of breast cancer mortality (deaths) after giving women BSE instruction; (a Russian study that found no difference in mortality rates of women performing BSE, and a much larger, randomized controlled study in Shanghai, China, with an intensive program of BSE instruction there was no effect on breast cancer mortality.
  5. Groups and governments all over the globe reacted, only increasing women’s confusion about whether or not breast self-exam helped.
    • The US Preventive Services Task Force reacted by recommending against even teaching women manual breast exams in 2009, but has now reversed on its opinion and benignly (no pun intended) says that doing breast self-exams should be, OPTIONAL; a woman’s choice.
    • The American Cancer Society also had a knee-jerk reaction and recommended against BSE. ACS has since reversed their position and maintains a diplomatic approach on their website that encourages women to become either breast aware, or perform their BSE. Read the referenced article here.
    • Even Susan G. Komen, the grandmother of breast cancer organizations, explicitly states on their website that they “no longer recommend monthly BSE”. However their website does encourage women to “become familiar with the way breasts normally look and feel. Know what is normal to help see or feel changes in your breasts.” They then subsequently give instruction for what to look for. Isn’t that what a breast self-exam is?
    • Meanwhile, many countries where mammography and other imagery tests are scarce and not accessible to many women, declared that women should take a proactive stance and conduct their monthly breast self-exams, as the government of Malaysia did in 2005.
  6. Luckily there have been several new studies conducted and published that now directly refute the China and Russia results.
    • Duke University followed 147 high-risk women over a 3 year period and 46.6% of the cancers diagnosed were first found during the breast self-exam, and many of them were not even seen in mammography screening.
    • A Harvard study of the value of BSE in younger women 40 and under, found that 71% of cancers detected were first detected by BSE.tweet this Read the referenced article here
    • Finally the Mayo Clinic in Arizona researched and found in a group of 782 women, that women under 50 were more likely to present a lump that can be found in BSE than have their cancer detected in screening mammography.
  7. Despite these studies with proven results on the importance of BSE listed above, due to the widely covered China and Russia studies, journalists, health care professionals, and women looking for answers are still finding and using the out-of-date-yet-widely-reported study results on the internet and believe this information is the gospel. To find the newest information and study results available, you really have to dig. This is resulting in current articles being published with OLD data, telling women not to do their breast self-exam.
  8. In March, 2014, a popular magazine, widely read by young women under 40, were told the “Breast Self-Exam Debate Finally Settled,” and quoted that research has shown that the actual teaching of the breast self-exam and doing it monthly doesn’t improve outcomes or long-term survival.” This 2014 article quotes the Shanghai, China study. And finally they close by saying don’t “massage your breasts…once a month, just know the look, feel and shape of your own breast.” This is a perfect example of the confusing message for women. Telling women to not touch their breasts – then telling them in the next breath to know how they look and feel.
  9. Recently, The US Preventative Services Task Force has taken a new stance on their current recommendations on Breast Cancer and Screening Methods, and is researching and reevaluating its recommendations on breast cancer screening. It is asking for input from the public, and guarantees each comment will be reviewed and posted.

This is your chance to make a difference. Stand up for breast self-exams.

First, by taking on this healthy ritual and making it your own. Go to to learn how to make this easier and how to know your breasts better!

Second, by going to the task force website and submitting a comment in support of recommending BSE’s each time they open a public forum every four weeks.

How Circuelle Foundation helps: Circuelle Foundation has a mission to empower women and change the way women view breast health which begins with breast awareness and education. Especially on breast self exams! Why are breast self exams so important? “When caught early, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is greater than 92%.” (Tweet: When caught early, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is greater than 92%. Via @Circuelle)

And Circuelle believes breast self-exams is one of the many ways women get to know their breasts.

To help achieve this, Circuelle has created a patent-pending innovative Breast Ritual Crème that provides a unique touch sensitivity making breast self-exams easier, while improving significantly what a woman is able to feel underneath her skin. The founder worked with a chemist for over two years to develop the perfect composition and glide factor to increase the tactile sensation of the texture of the breast tissue. Circuelle is specifically designed for use in a shower or bath. A key attribute of the Breast Ritual Crème is the moisturizing and aromatherapy which provides a lotion-like silky smooth texture that spreads easily and does not run-off wet skin. Important for breast self-exams! And, it’s clinically proven to work!

Bottom line: Breast self-exams are a necessary part of a woman’s basket of healthy rituals.  They are simple, inexpensive, non-invasive and non-hazardous and accessible to all. And above all, by definition, they empower women to know their breasts.

That knowledge is powerful!

Share this information with all the women in your life.

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