Purpose: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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%). Conclusions: 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.
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