Women Unsatisfied with Body and Breasts, Less Likely to Comply with Screenings, Including Mammography

The National Women's Health Resource Center's Breast Cancer Study Also Shows 82% of Women Do Not Know the #1 Risk Factor for Breast Cancer

Red Bank, NJ - According to a new study by the not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC), the nation's leading source for women's health information, women who are dissatisfied with their overall physical appearance are significantly less likely to be up to date with preventive screenings, such as mammography and breast self-exam.


The national survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, as part of the NWHRC's new Learn. Love. Commit. breast cancer awareness campaign, finds that women who feel good about their overall physical appearance are very likely to have had mammograms (68 percent), teeth cleanings (81 percent) or Pap smears (78 percent). Conversely, women who are unsatisfied with their overall physical appearance are significantly less likely to have gotten a mammogram (59 percent), teeth cleaning (65 percent), or a Pap smear (61 percent) in the past year.

In looking specifically at women who have had a mammography in the past year, the data reveals that women who are satisfied with their overall physical appearance (79 percent) out-number women who are unsatisfied (21 percent) by a ratio of four to one. A similar dynamic emerges among the same group of women who say they are satisfied specifically with their breasts (74 percent), outnumbering those who are unsatisfied (25 percent) by a ratio of three to one.

"Making the connection between self-esteem and preventive care is a big step to helping women understand that if they love themselves on the outside, they are more likely to take better care of themselves on the inside," said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of the NWHRC. "Our new breast cancer campaign seeks to not only give women the information they need on breast cancer risk factors, screening and treatment, but also encourages them to feel self confident and worthy enough to take preventive steps to keeping themselves healthy."

Interestingly, the survey shows that although women who are dissatisfied with their appearance are less likely to comply with screenings, they are more likely to be concerned about a range of health issues than women satisfied with their appearance. For example, women unsatisfied with their overall looks are significantly more concerned than other women about breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

What Women Know and Don't Know About Breast Cancer

Even with the broad reach and coverage of public health information campaigns about breast cancer, women in the survey do not feel inundated with too much information. Overall, women say they are well informed about both breast cancer and screening recommendations. A large majority report having just about the right amount of information on breast cancer (66 percent), more than heart disease (55 percent), osteoporosis (53 percent), or menopause (46 percent).

Most women know the recommended frequency of breast cancer screening, with 75 percent correctly stating that women should have a mammogram once a year. And nearly three quarters of women are translating that knowledge into action with 74 percent reporting having had a mammography in the last year and 61 percent stating they have performed a breast self-exam in the last month.

Looking specifically at the women in the survey who had not had a mammography in the past year, they key factor is not lack of awareness, but rather cost. Twenty-one percent of women say they can not afford to get a mammography.

"With screening technologies becoming more accurate and advanced, coupled with the number of local programs offering free mammograms, women need to know these options are available in their communities," says Lydia Komarnicky, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Drexel University College of Medicine and medical advisor for the NWHRC's Learn.Love.Commit. campaign. "Given women's hectic schedules and their typical way of taking care of others before themselves, we need to make access to mammography as simple and cost-effective as possible."

Interestingly, even though the majority of women (58 percent) correctly identify heart disease, not breast cancer, as the number one killer of women, breast cancer ranked first for the health condition women worry about most (51 percent).

Understanding Risk

Despite women believing they are knowledgeable and have the information they need about breast cancer, only 18 percent of women in the survey correctly identified age as the number one risk factor. Sixty four percent of respondents incorrectly believe that family history is the single greatest factor. Even more disturbing, older women in the survey were no more likely to think they are at risk for breast cancer than other women, showing that they do not fully appreciate the importance of age as a risk factor for breast cancer.

The survey also finds that a family history of breast cancer does not seem to affect women's interest in more information about breast cancer or their perception that breast cancer is the leading killer of women. Moreover, women with a family history of breast cancer can no more accurately identify the leading risks associated with breast cancer or demonstrate knowledge about breast cancer overall.

Talking About Breast Cancer

The vast majority of the survey respondents are talking to their healthcare providers about mammography (79 percent), breast self-exam (83 percent), and their individual risk of breast cancer (63 percent).

Furthermore, a sizeable majority (60 percent) report discussing breast cancer with either their mother or their daughter and, in some cases, both. The survey shows very positive consequences as an outcome of these discussions. For example, women who talk about breast cancer screenings with either their mother or daughter are also more likely to talk with their health care professionals about breast self-exams, mammograms and their own risk for breast cancer.

The survey also confirmed a connection between talking about breast cancer and complying with screening guidelines; women who talk to either their daughters or mothers about mammograms (70 percent) are more likely to get annual mammograms than those who do not (52 percent).

Learn. Love. Commit.

To empower women with the latest breast cancer information and the confidence to translate that knowledge into action, the National Women's Health Resource Center today introduced the Learn. Love. Commit. breast cancer awareness campaign:

Learn. Love. Commit.

To empower women with the latest breast cancer information and the confidence to translate that knowledge into action, the National Women's Health Resource Center has launched the Learn. Love. Commit. breast cancer awareness campaign:

  • Learn the facts about breast cancer.

  • Love your body.

  • Commit to regular preventive health screenings.

As part of the Learn. Love. Commit. campaign, the NWHRC is launching the Breast Health Center on its award-winning Web site, fmxhosting.com/drupal635. Visitors can download a variety of complementary publications including tip cards on mammograms and breast cancer risks (English & Spanish); a National Women's Health Update that explores breast cancer today in terms of screenings, treatment, and prevention; and a waterproof tip card for the shower on how to properly conduct a breast self-exam (English & Spanish).The online center will also include feature articles on breast cancer, resources and questions/answers with the country's top breast cancer experts.

The Learn. Love. Commit. campaign is supported by an educational grant from Eli Lilly, & Co.

For more information on the 2008 Breast Cancer Awareness Survey, to learn more about the Learn. Love. Commit. campaign, or to request an interview with a breast cancer health professional, please visit http://healthywomen.org/newsroom.

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About the survey:
The 2008 Breast Cancer Awareness Survey is a national telephone survey of 815 women, aged 30-70 years, with an oversample of 114 Hispanic women. The research was conducted by Washington, DC polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research between February 26 and March 9, 2008. The overall margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points, though margins will be higher for subgroups of women.

About the National Women's Health Resource Center:
The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center is the leading independent health information source for women. NWHRC develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice. NWHRC believes all women should have access to the most trusted and reliable health information. Information empowers women to make the best decisions to maintain and improve their health and the health of their families.

Contact: Marisa Rainsberger
877-986-9472 x108

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