Several times a month Jean Ashby trades in her business suit for a hospital gown. She acts as a patient. She helps clinicians learn how to accurately look for breast cancer. "My best friend got it about four years ago," Ashby says, "I knew that it was my reason, my mission, to help in any way I could."
The new technique, called vertical strips, has clinicians examine the breast as a rectangle, instead of using the standard circular method. "If you were going to mow your lawn, that is a pentangle, or a rectangle, you wouldn't mow it in circles, you would mow it in strips," says Nancy Prouser, MS, a training program manager at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
Most lumps are benign, but the earlier a cancerous lump is detected, the more likely that cancer can be cured.
About a dozen state health departments and medical centers in the United States teach the vertical strips method. A private company called MammaCare also teaches it.
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