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Breast Self-Awareness: The Evidence Behind the Euphemism

Mark, Katrina MD; Temkin, Sarah M. MD; Terplan, Mishka MD, MPH

Obstetrics & Gynecology:
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000139
Contents: Current Commentary

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women. Breast self-examination originally was proposed and implemented under the assumption that it would increase early detection and, theoretically, improve survival. However, breast self-examination since has been proven to have no effect on mortality from breast cancer. Rather than being abandoned, breast self-examination has been repackaged into the new concept of breast self-awareness. Although the desire to empower women with self-detection of cancer is noble, teaching techniques that have been proven not to be effective likely causes more harm than good.

In Brief

The campaign of “breast self-awareness” places an unfair burden of guilt on patients by ignoring the evidence regarding the harms of breast self-examination.

Author Information

Department of Obstetrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Corresponding author: Katrina Mark, MD, Department of Obstetrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 11 S Paca Street, Suite 400, Baltimore, MD 21201; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.