The method by which breast cancer is detected becomes a factor for long-term survival and should be considered in treatment plans. This report describes patient characteristics and time trends for various methods of breast cancer detection in the United States.
The 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a nationally representative self-report health survey, included 361 women survivors diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 2003. Responses to the question, How was your breast cancer found? were categorized as accident, self-examination, physician during routine breast examination, mammogram, and other. We examined responses by income, race, age, and year of diagnosis.
Most women survivors (57%) reported a detection method other than mammographic examination. Women often detected breast cancers themselves, either by self-examination (25%) or by accident (18%).
Despite increased use of screening mammography, a large percentage of breast cancers are detected by the patients themselves. Patient-noted breast abnormalities should be carefully evaluated.