Mammographic screening is impractical in most of the world where breast cancers are first identified based on clinical signs and symptoms. Clinical breast examination may improve early diagnosis directly by finding breast cancers at earlier stages or indirectly by heightening women’s awareness of breast health concerns.Objective
To investigate factors that influence time to presentation and stage at diagnosis among patients with breast cancer to determine whether history of previous clinical breast examination is associated with earlier presentation and/or earlier cancer stage at diagnosis.Design, Setting, and Participants
In this cross-sectional analysis of individual patient interviews using a validated Breast Cancer Delay Questionnaire, 113 (71.1%) of 159 women with breast cancer treated at a federally funded tertiary care referral cancer center in Trujillo, Peru, from February 1 through May 31, 2015, were studied.Main Outcomes and Measures
Method of breast cancer detection and factors that influence time to and stage at diagnosis.Results
Of 113 women with diagnosed cancer (mean [SD] age, 54 [10.8] years; age range, 32-82 years), 105 (92.9%) had self-detected disease. Of the 93 women for whom stage was documented, 45 (48.4%) were diagnosed with early-stage disease (American Joint Committee on Cancer [AJCC] stage 0, I, or II), and 48 (51.6%) were diagnosed with late-stage disease (AJCC stage III or IV). Mean (SD) total delay from symptom onset to initiation of treatment was 407 (665) days because of patient (mean [SD], 198  days) and health care system (mean [SD], 241  days) delay. Fifty-two women (46.0%) had a history of clinical breast examination, and 23 (20.4%) had undergone previous mammography. Women who underwent a previous clinical breast examination were more likely to have shorter delays from symptom development to presentation compared with women who had never undergone a previous clinical breast examination (odds ratio, 2.92; 95% CI, 1.30-6.60; P = .01). Women diagnosed with shorter patient delay were more likely to be diagnosed with early-stage disease (AJCC stage 0, I, or II) than those with longer patient delay (31 [58.5%] vs 11 [30.6%], P = .01). Women who underwent a previous clinical breast examination were more likely to be diagnosed with early-stage disease compared with women who had never undergone previous clinical breast examination; this relationship remained significant after controlling for insurance and household income (odds ratio, 2.44; 95% CI, 1.01-5.95; P = .048).Conclusions and Relevance
In a population in which most breast cancers are self-detected, previous clinical breast examination was associated with shorter patient delay and earlier stage at breast cancer diagnosis. In regions of the world that lack mammographic screening, the routine use of clinical breast examination may provide a resource-appropriate strategy for improving breast cancer early diagnosis.