Introduction: This study aims to assess the accuracy of detection of breast lesion by breast self-examination and to assess different factors affecting the accuracy.
Methods: All consecutive Chinese female patients, who attended our breast imaging unit in 2001, completed our questionnaire, had retrievable hard copy films, and had more than three years clinical follow-up, were recruited for this study. Different factors, such as age, menopausal status, previous experience of breastfeeding, family history of breast cancer, previous history of mastectomy or lumpectomy, hormonal therapy, oral contraceptive pills and previous history of mammography, were correlated with accuracy in self-detection of breast lesions retrospectively. The nature, size and location of the lesion, and breast size based on imaging, were also correlated with the accuracy in self-detection of breast lesions.
Results: A total of 163 questionnaires were analysed. 111 patients detected a breast lesion themselves and 24 of these lesions were false-positives. A total of 173 lesions (27 cancerous, 146 benign lesions) were documented by either ultrasonography and/or mammography, and confirmed by either histology or three-year clinical follow-up. The overall sensitivity in detecting both benign and malignant breast lesions was 71% when number of breast lesions was used as the denominator, and up to 78% sensitivity was achieved when number of patients was used as the denominator. History of mastectomy, and size and nature of the lesions were found to affect the accuracy of self-detection of breast lesions.
Conclusion: Overall, breast self-examinations were effective in the detection of breast lesions and factors such as size of lesion, nature of the lesion and history of mastectomy affect the accuracy of the detections. Breast self-examination should be promoted for early detection of breast cancer.