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This woman got a breast exam on live TV. No bra, no blurring. Here's why.

Model Leeanne Adu, right, signed up to get a breast exam on live TV from Dr. TK, left, because she knows
Model Leeanne Adu, right, signed up to get a breast exam on live TV from Dr. Sara Kayat, left, because she knows "firsthand how critical early detection is." (Photo: @thismorning via Twitter)

A woman got a breast exam on live TV. No bra, no carefully draped gown, no blurring.

On the British talk show This Morning, model Leeanne Adu, who wears a size 38JJ bra, disrobed and had Dr. Sara Kayat perform a physical exam at 10:30 a.m. BST Monday.

"Part of the examination for breasts is looking and feeling," Kayat said in the segment. Kayat talked about the importance of looking at your breasts from the front and side during an exam. "We're feeling for lumps here," she said, walking the audience step-by-step through her process.

While breast cancer awareness and the importance of self-checks are regularly talked about on television, it's rare for a real person, as opposed to a dummy or simulation, to be used in such a way.

Adu tells Yahoo Life that she was diagnosed with stage III, grade 3, triple-negative breast cancer in 2020 when she was 35. "The cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes, but knowing my body and breasts meant I found it before it spread further," she says. "So when I saw the call for someone to participate in a live breast exam, I instantly put myself forward because I know firsthand how critical early detection is to survival rates."

Adu has finished treatment and says she "lives firmly in the camp of saying yes to things that might change my life, and this was one of those yes moments."

Adu says the response to her segment has been "overwhelmingly positive. ...To hear so many people will be checking their breasts and chests makes me so happy."

In fact, the segment went viral on social media, garnering comments from people like "the actual demonstration is so helpful, especially for girls/women with larger breasts," one person wrote on Twitter. "Brilliant. I did a check whilst watching the video. A very powerful segment. Much needed!" another said. Plenty of others pointed out that simulated exams, which are commonly used, just aren't helpful. "So many videos do not use real women to demonstrate breast examination. Using fruit or household objects leaves people confused," one said.

This Morning covers several health topics each week and has done live breast checks in the past, along with testicular checks and smear tests. This one just happened to go viral.

“Having live demonstrations help to provide much more detail, guidance and confidence for individuals to help them practice vital, life-saving health checks at home," a publicist for This Morning tells Yahoo Life. "Viewers gain more awareness of the best movements, techniques and pressure to apply for example than what a leaflet or diagram may provide.”

Doctors applaud the segment. "I'm totally for it," Dr. Richard Reitherman, a radiologist and medical director of breast imaging at MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Life. "Using a live model is a great educational format — especially if there is an interaction between the physician and woman, the kind that would occur in a real clinical situation."

"It is very important for women to be informed and educated on how to perform a breast self-exam and also be able to identify changes in the breast that warrant medical attention," Dr. Avan Armaghani, a medical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center's Breast Oncology Department.

But Armaghani says that this won't be effective for everyone, noting that using a real model to demonstrate a breast exam "can be sensitive or uncomfortable for viewers to watch."

Armaghani says that's especially true in the United States, where nudity is restricted on daytime television. "I’m not sure that this is something that may happen in the U.S.," she says. "I recommend use of models and photos to provide education to the general public."

According to the National Library of Medicine, the best time to do a breast self-exam is three to five days after your period starts (if you get a period), once a month. "Performing a breast self-exam once a month is reasonable and allows patients to examine and identify any potential changes to their breasts," Armaghani says. "I always tell my patients that they know their body best and they know what is their normal. So, if they notice any changes, they should not ignore it — they should notify their health care provider immediately."

It's important to point out that guidance around breast self-exams in the U.S. is a little confusing. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that research has not shown a clear benefit of regular physical breast exams done by a health professional or by women themselves, noting that there is "very little evidence" that the tests help detect breast cancer early when women also get mammograms. Most breast cancer is detected because of symptoms, like a lump, and women usually discover them during normal activities like bathing and dressing, the ACS says. However, the organization also stresses that women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel, and should report changes to their health care provider immediately.

Reitherman acknowledges that some medical literature "minimizes the benefits of breast self-examination in the context of screening for breast cancer" but says that the technique still has value. Mammograms "cannot detect a significant proportion of breast cancers, especially in women with dense breast tissue and those under age to have mammograms," he points out. "It is critically important to educate and encourage women to adopt breast self-examination as an empowering complement to regular mammography," he adds.

Adu says she hopes her demonstration helps other women. "Seeing how a breast exam looks on a real person is so important," she says. "So many of us are not taught how to examine ourselves and look for changes or the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Seeing it on a live person shows how easy it is to check yourself and makes it relatable to those who may have felt they would not be affected by breast cancer." It's also "essential" for people to "see different bodies and what a breast exam looks like on those bodies," she adds.

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