While the study participants women at higher-than-normal risk of breast cancer displayed anxiety about all screening tests, their anxiety was highest for breast self-examination. And breast self-examination was the only test where compliance was low enough to suggest that anxiety may be a barrier to cancer screening.
The possibility of finding disturbing information while alone sets off anxiety that makes this procedure too threatening. This is particularly true for those women who see themselves as more vulnerable to breast cancer, said the studys authors, David Wellisch, a psychologist, professor in UCLAs Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and a member of UCLAs Jonsson Cancer Center, and Nangel Lindberg, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences.
The findings are published in the November issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the official, peer-reviewed publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
The UCLA researchers found that while 79 percent of the study participants went for regular mammograms and 89 percent went for regular Pap smears (swab tests that look for cancer cells in the cervix), only 34 percent of the women performed regular breast self-exams.
Compared to mammography, a type of X-ray procedure used to detect breast cancer, breast self-examination is a less accurate cancer detection method, but it can be useful in detecting lumps between mammograms.
Women at high risk of breast cancer also have an increased risk of cervical cancer.
Participants in the UCLA study included 430 women recruited at a clinic for women with a family history of breast cancer. The majority of them were white, middle-
Contact: Kambra McConnel
University of California - Los Angeles