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Screening: Misconceptions about Breast Cancer

Screening: Misconceptions about Breast Cancer

Photo: Woman examining her breast 

Fear plays a major role in whether women decide to go for cancer screening or not, but healthcare providers underestimate how much women need to know and wrongly assume that they will ask for information if they want it.

US researchers Dr Kelly Ackerson and Dr Stephanie Preston reviewed 19 studies that between them explored the attitudes of 5,991 women to breast and cervical cancer screening. The studies, which covered the period 1994 to 2008, included women of all ages, from 14 year-old teenagers to women in their eighties.

“Our review showed that fear could motivate women to either seek screening or to avoid screening” says nurse researcher Dr Ackerson, an Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University, USA. Some women complied because they feared the disease and saw screening as routine care, but other women feared medical examinations, healthcare providers, tests and procedures and didn’t seek screening if their health was good.

“Lack of information was a big barrier. It was clear from our review that very few women understood that cervical smear testing aims to identify abnormal cells before they become malignant and that breast screening can detect cancer in the early stages when treatment is most effective”, Ackerson added. The review also highlighted that many women had misconceptions about breast and cervical cancer and who was at risk. For example, some women felt they did not need breast or cervical screening after a certain age and some believed that they could not develop cervical cancer if they weren’t in a current sexual relationship.

“Women who did not have a family history of cancer were also less likely to think they were at risk. Because there has been a lot of publicity about the role that family history can play in breast cancer, many women assumed wrongly that the same family patterns can apply to cervical cancer”, says Ackerson. Figures from the USA and UK show that there is a big gap between the number of women invited for screening and the number who actually attend.

REHACARE.de; Source: Wiley-Blackwell

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