Cancer Screening Fear Is Fueled By Lack Of Information, Major Study Of Women's Attitudes Finds
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
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.
review showed that fear could motivate women to either seek screening
or to avoid screening" said nurse researcher Ackerson, an assistant
professor at Western Michigan University.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America
estimated that 25 per cent of women aged 40 plus had not had breast
screening in the last two years and 16 per cent aged 18 and over had
not had a cervical smear in the last three years.
Research UK figures for the same year suggest that 4.4 million women
were invited for cervical smears but only 3.6 million (82 per cent)
cancer rates are similar in both countries, despite differently funded
healthcare systems and screening criteria, but a lower percentage of UK
women die from cervical cancer.
The researchers have come up with three key recommendations as a result of their review:
should promote screening by educating women of the benefits of breast
and cervical screening even when they do not ask for information.
aimed at increasing uptake rates should focus on women’s fears
about the procedure or a possible positive result.
- Public health messages need to specifically target women who do have access to healthcare but fail to undergo routine testing.
have a key role to play in addressing the fears and lack of knowledge
that women have when it comes to screening for breast and cervical
cancer" concludes Ackerson.
need to help women understand both the risks and benefits of screening
so that they can make informed choices about whether or not they want
to be tested."
For more information on Western Michigan University, visit www.wmich.edu.