Medgadget has a story on a fancy flashlight-type medical device called the Breastlight. It shines a light through breast tissue so that you can almost see inside your breasts and look for suspicious areas that might suggest breast cancer. This device is produced by PWB Health Ltd out of Dumbarton, UK, and was developed by Highland Innovation Centre (Inverness , UK). Looks like a very interesting product, but I wonder if it will do more harm than good. What do I mean by that? Well, let's consider what's happening in the world of breast self-exams (BSEs). Are BSEs even recommended these days? Let's see:
- The 3rd US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend for or against BSEs. That's very helpful.
- In 2003, the American Cancer Society (ACS) changed its previous recommendation in favor of monthly BSE to a recommendation that women be educated about the benefits and limitations of BSE by their healthcare provider. Once again, that's very decisive, isn't it?
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that healthcare providers routinely teach patients about BSE.
- The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care concluded that "there is fair evidence to recommend that routine teaching of BSE be excluded from the periodic health examination of women aged 40 to 49 (grade D recommendation)" because of excessive work-ups for false-positive examinations and lack of firm evidence that BSEs decrease breast cancer mortality. Now, we finally have someone taking a stand instead of straddling the fence!
- The Advisory Committee on Cancer Prevention in the European Union states that there is "no convincing evidence for the effect of screening based on breast self-examination or clinical breast examination."