Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
FEBRUARY 14, 2017
OK, this isn't really fake news, but I am trying to stay current, and I thought that phrase might grab your attention. A more honest title would be something like: Be careful of what you read or Always consider the context. Much less attention grabbing....
This is an introduction to an article from Health News Review about a Facebook posting that recently went viral. The posting was from a woman who had recently palpated a breast lump, gone to her doctor, and learned that she indeed had breast cancer. In it, she urged women to do monthly BSE (breast self exam) both lying down and standing up. There is certainly nothing wrong with this advice, but it skips past at least two important facts. The first is that BSE is no longer being routinely recommended for personal health screening as it has not demonstrated any value in earlier diagnosis or outcome. The truth about women (or their partners) finding a lump is that it usually is found not while doing BSE, but in the shower or stretching or during love making.
Of course it makes sense for a woman to have some sense of her her body, to know what her breasts ordinarily feel like and to, thereby, increase the odds of noticing something new and different. I found my first breast cancer in 1993 in the shower, and I knew immediately that it was different from the normal landscape. That's the goal.
A ‘trick’ to finding breast cancer goes viral on Facebook–here’s what
was missing from the message
This week a Facebook post from user Hayley Browning on her “trick” to
finding breast cancer went viral, garnering 150,000+ shares,
and 22,000 comments in just a handful of days.
“3 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I could only feel the lump whilst lying down and it completely disappeared standing up. …this is a call out to all women to check for lumps lying
down, as well as standing up,” her post states.
In the era of heated political rhetoric, it’s impressive to see a post about basic health information do so well.
Yet–you knew there was a yet, didn’t you?–we also cringed just a little, especially as we skimmed CBS News’s write-up on the post. We expected that their story would flesh out Browning’s post, which, after all, is her personal opinion–she’s not a medical expert, and hopefully her Facebook readers realized that and took her advice with a grain of salt. But CBS didn’t elaborate on the pros and cons of breast self-exams; instead, it just added a little bit more on how to do one.
This was a missed opportunity to provide context because in reality the evidence doesn’t support regular breast self-exams as being useful (which goes against what many women are told every day from their doctors), and there are other, important things women should know about breast cancer prevention.