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Volume 8 Supplement 1

Symposium Mammographicum 2006

Knowledge about breast cancer and attitudes to seeking help with breast cancer symptoms among older women

Older age is a risk factor for developing breast cancer and delayed presentation; however, routine breast screening on the NHSBSP ends at age 70. The aim of this study was to examine how well-equipped older women are to seek help following symptom discovery after their final routine mammogram. We conducted a questionnaire survey among a national sample of 850 women aged 67–73 years (response rate 84%). Fifty per cent of women underestimated their lifetime risk of developing breast cancer as less than 1 in 100, and 75% believed their age decreased the likelihood of them developing breast cancer or made no difference. Identification of 11 possible breast cancer symptoms varied from 93% of women for a breast lump to 14% for nipple rash. Women with no formal education knew fewer breast cancer symptoms than those with at least O-levels (P < 0.001). Poorer knowledge about breast cancer symptoms was associated with less confidence in being able to detect a breast change (P < 0.001) and with decreased intention to seek help in the event of symptom discovery (P = 0.02).

Increasing knowledge of breast cancer and the confidence to detect breast cancer symptoms as women leave the routine protection of the NHSBSP may reduce delays in presentation by older women with breast cancer.

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  • Breast Cancer
  • Cancer Research
  • Formal Education
  • Questionnaire Survey
  • Lifetime Risk