Increasing Community Members’ Knowledge and Awareness on How to Understand and Perform the Correct Technique for Self-Breast Exams

November 2019 Vol 10, No 11
Dana Stevens, BSN, RN, MSHA, CBCN, CN-BN, ONN-CG
Breast Nurse Navigator, Good Samaritan Health System, San Jose, CA
Stacey Contreras, CRT(M)
Good Samaritan Hospital

Background: Invasive breast cancer is the most common cancer in females, accounting for approximately one-third of all invasive cancers diagnosed annually in the Greater Bay Area and in the state. From 2011 through 2015, 25,603 new invasive breast cancers were diagnosed in females in the Greater Bay Area, and 128,158 were diagnosed in California. For the most recent period (2011-2015), the incidence rate of breast cancer in the Greater Bay Area (124.5 per 100,000) was higher than that for California (121.0 per 100,000).1

A breast self-exam (BSE) for breast awareness is a safe way for women to become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. BSEs help the community members get to know the normal look and feel of their breasts, and, if a change is noticed, to report it to their doctor. Although the BSE technique isn’t always a reliable way to detect breast cancer, a significant number of women report that the first sign of their breast cancer was a new breast lump they discovered on their own. For this reason, doctors recommend being familiar with the normal consistency of your breasts.2,3

Objectives: To increase community members’ knowledge and awareness on how to understand and perform the correct technique for BSE at various health fairs.

Methods: Breast models with various palpable lesions were available for training on BSE. Women were asked to try to locate the lumps in the breast models. Good Samaritan Hospital staff (nurse navigator, mammography technologist) then educated them by demonstrating the correct way to perform a BSE, including the different techniques and pressures needed to feel the deeper tissues of the breast. Participants were then asked to repeat the exam to see if they were able to find more lesions.

Results: Participants were to evaluate the program’s self-breast education effectiveness through verbal evaluations of the following questions: number of lesions found pre education; number of lesions found post education.

A total of about 50 community members visited our educational booth, and 12 completed the educational training and survey.

On average:

# of lesions found pre-education – 31.67%

# of lesions found posteducation – 83.33%

Based on what you learned today:

Do you feel more comfortable in performing a self-breast exam? Yes (100%)

Will you perform self-breast exam on a regular basis? Yes (91.67%), No answer (8.33%)

Conclusion: Data show an increase in the number of breast lesions posteducation compared with pre-education. Community members reported feeling more comfortable in performing BSE and are more willing to perform them on a regular basis.


  1. California Cancer Registry.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Breast self-exam for breast awareness.
  3. MedlinePlus. Breast self-exam.
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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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