The Value of Breast Self-Examination: Meta-Analysis of the Research Literature

Ya-Lie Ku

breast self-examination, breast neoplasms

Purpose/Objectives: To review 20 studies examining the relationship between breast self-examination (BSE) behaviors, BSE education, the stage of breast cancer at diagnosis, and the mortality or survival rates for breast cancer. 

Data Sources: 20 studies from medical and nursing journals.

Data Synthesis: In the articles reviewed, the relationship between the value of BSE and BSE behaviors and education (defined as the stage of breast cancer at diagnosis and the mortality or survival rates for breast cancer) was unclear. Methodologic issues such as research design, confounding variables, operational definitions, and sampling were inconsistent and weak.

Conclusions: Meta-analysis suggests that the healthcare research community should state BSE research findings in terms of recommendations for further studies. Until a large number of prospective, randomized, and controlled studies of the relationship between BSE behaviors and education and the value of BSE are conducted, researchers will be unable to make a definitive statement regarding whether BSE provides advantages in detecting breast cancer at an earlier stage, reducing mortality, and increasing survival rates for women with breast cancer.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Nurse researchers play a key role in conveying the methodologic issues involved in BSE research to the healthcare community and are encouraged to publish their studies in medical journals. When the relationship between the value of BSE and BSE behaviors and education can be confirmed systematically, the healthcare community will recognize and use nurses’ research findings to better inform women about breast health.

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