Cancer Charity Slams Device to Detect Breast Abnormalities

by Gopalan on  December 20, 2009 at 10:44 AM Cancer News
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 Cancer Charity Slams Device to Detect Breast Abnormalities
A Scottish breast cancer group has slammed a device that is marketed as a "breast cancer detector." The nonprofit charges that the device could cause needless anxiety.

About the size of an electric toothbrush, 'Breastlight' works by shining a very bright red light through the breast tissue to show up any tell-tale signs of lumps such as dark spots alongside the veins.

The Scottish Breast Cancer declares it is "completely unconvinced about the efficacy" of the device and has written to the leading retail chain Boots, saying, "We concluded that not only was it non-user friendly but that it could cause unnecessary distress if the 'shadows' were misinterpreted by a woman, who would then have to wait for an appointment with a doctor to have her fears allayed.

"As breast cancer advocates, we pointed out to Breastlight that, even if a woman found an 'abnormality' with the light, she would find it extremely difficult for a GP to refer her on to a breast clinic on the evidence of 'shadows' produced by a torch. Thus the product could create needless anxiety."

The organisation said there was also a danger of women using the product instead of self-examination, and called on Boots to reconsider stocking it. 

PWB Health was last year awarded a £165,000 grant from the Scottish government to develop the hand-held device.

Announcing the grant, Finance Secretary John Swinney described Breastlight as a "pioneering" product which had potential health benefits for millions of women.

PWB Health said a survey conducted by it found 93 per cent of women did not feel confident about being able to accurately diagnose what they feel when they check their breasts.

The figures revealed one in three women do not check their breasts regularly - less than once every three months. After trying Breastlight this number fell to 10 per cent.

The torch-like product can be used for "earlier detection" as it highlights any "dark clusters" which could be a cancerous lump undetectable by self-examination, it has been claimed.

The device is particularly useful for women with larger breasts who find it difficult to check for lumps by just using their hands or women who have particularly 'lumpy' breasts, the company said. 

But Arlene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy at Breast Cancer Campaign told Mail Online: 'Rather than putting their faith in self check gadgets, we encourage women to be breast aware by becoming familiar with how their breasts look and feel, knowing the potential symptoms of breast cancer and knowing what is normal for them.

'Any changes should be reported to the doctor without delay. Remember to attend breast screening if aged over 50.'

Steve Soden of PWB Health said: 'In some cases Breastlight may enable them to find abnormalities they can't feel or otherwise see.

'In addition it acts as an encouragement for breast awareness in general. Overall we believe that Breastlight will help many women detect breast cancer earlier.

'It is important to see Breastlight as a complement to mammogram screening and also to general breast awareness - looking and feeling. It is not a replacement for either.'

It was also argued, "Breastlight has undergone extensive clinical testing to demonstrate efficacy.

"We have had no reports of increased anxiety with the product. In fact, most women feel more confident."

The company said it has sold more than 5,000 devices and claimed it had received very positive feedback from "the medical profession worldwide".

Source: Medindia

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