Subscribe to our free Wellness Junction Professional Update


Click here for more information!

Search For:

Managed Care
Information Center

Health Resources Publishing

Managed Care

Health Resources Online

About Us
Bookmark Us

home / at home / women's health / story
Women's Health

Specific Education Needed To Correct Myths About Breast Cancer

Women's need to learn more about their health and breast cancer, in particular, may be more critical than you realize. Not only is education the main factor in women's preventive efforts in this area, but it is needed to combat several misconceptions women have about breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Although a significant number of women appear to be educated about breast cancer in general, several fallacies remain, found the study, conducted by Avon's Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade and the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO).

On the whole, 43 percent of women surveyed answered all 10, or nine out of 10, true/false questions about breast cancer correctly, scoring an "A," while 29 percent answered eight questions correctly and earned a "B." Ninety-two percent of respondents knew that "not all lumps are cancerous," and 94 percent knew that "breast cancer is survivable."

However, more than one-third (38 percent) wrongly believe that a woman can get breast cancer from a bump or tight clothing, and two out of five (41 percent) were unaware that they could schedule a mammogram directly, without having their doctor do it, the study found. Moreover, nearly half — 48 percent — falsely believe that breast cancer can be prevented.

"These results confirm that educating women about breast cancer remains a crucial job," said Amy Langer, NABCO's executive director. "Recent scientific discoveries increasingly suggest that our breast cancer risk is in our genes. What is under women's control is following an early detection program, but in fact we cannot yet offer any means to prevent this disease."

Reasons for Testing

Sponsoring breast cancer education initiatives may be particularly helpful, since study findings show that those respondents who have had an annual clinical breast exam said that, for them, knowledge was their reason for taking preventive measures.

Ninety-six percent said they will have an annual exam because they know about breast cancer. In addition, 88 percent cited knowing about the exam as the reason they will have one, and 85 percent will schedule an annual breast exam because they know what to expect from the exam, the study found.

Of the women who do not regularly undergo an annual breast exam, 93 percent said they would schedule an appointment if they felt a lump. Eighty-eight percent said they would seek an exam if they thought they were at "increased risk for breast cancer." Of these women, 61 percent said that the influence of their husband or partner would encourage them to schedule an annual breast exam, the survey found. And, 58 percent would do the same if encouraged by family members, while 53 percent would have an exam if encouraged by friends or co-workers.

Importance of Doctors

Approximately 96 percent of those surveyed said that "having a regular doctor" was very important in their decision to undergo a clinical breast exam and a mammogram. Eighty-six percent of respondents who do not have an annual exam said they would be motivated to do so if they had a regular doctor and that doctor instructed them to do so, according to the study.

"Giving these women the encouragement they need is a particular challenge," said Langer.

According to the survey, results indicate that women are following one of two approaches in dealing with breast cancer: the reactive and the proactive. Those who are proactive tend to follow positive health practices, which include regular check-ups and screenings. Reactive women are motivated by personal experience instead of knowledge.

Influence of the Media

Survey results also found that the media greatly influence all women. More than half — 52 percent — said magazines, newspapers and books influence their thinking. Forty-five percent said television and radio also have an influence.

"By continuing to provide accurate and responsible information, the media can help us correct some of the myths which still persist," said Langer. "Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, it's important that women know it can be detected at an early, treatable stage, before it can be felt."

Addresses: Avon Products Inc., 9 W. 57th Street, New York, NY 10019; (212) 546-6015. National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations, 9 E. 37th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10016; (212) 719-0154.

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing