Personal Views

The quality of the b(r)east

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6990.1339 (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1339
  1. Ann McPherson

    I had been struggling to write the first chapter for a woman's health book commissioned by the BBC for Woman's Hour. “The benefits and burdens of breasts” was a starting point because breast cancer seemed to be the number one worry for most women. A colleague who read the draft of the chapter said, “Interesting but unbalanced. You say that only one in nine breast lumps is malignant and then ramble on about cancer with one moving cancer story after another.”

    As a female general practitioner I had read these accounts with mixed feelings as some of them told the familiar tale of “seeing the doctor, being reassured that there wasn't anything to worry about, and then wham—it was cancer after all.” I see women with lumps, thickening, and tender breasts every day and I still find it difficult to tell the normal from the abnormal. It's the nature of the b(r)east.

    You can guess how I felt two weeks after finishing the chapter, when pulling off a thread from my own breast: “What was that? A tiny lump? Perhaps it's just a prominent rib or normal porridgy breast tissue.”

    I had never been a great breast self examination person and I had become increasingly confused as to the difference between self examination and being …

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