These patients also identified themselves as being at very high risk of developing breast cancer. This concern may affect their motivation to seek information and help as well as their anxiety level, Wellisch said.
It may be unrealistic and potentially traumatic to direct women with very high self-appraised risk for breast cancer to perform breast self-examinations if these women have difficulty overcoming their anxiety, Wellisch said. While women at normal or low risk of breast cancer may benefit from expanded instruction and support to help them feel more comfortable and adept at performing self-examinations, women at high risk who are anxious about self-examinations may benefit more from being advised to receive more frequent clinical breast exams by a health professional.
Time and again, we hear from high-risk patients, I dont perform breast self-examinations because I would not know what I am feeling, Wellisch said. This underscores the importance of the role health providers play in working on compliance for this screening procedure and suggests that care should be taken to provide education and support to patients, especially patients whose anxiety may interfere with their ability to perform self-examination.
The study also indicated that most women highly overestimate their risk of breast cancer, as previous research has shown.
For nearly 77 percent of the participants, their own estimations of breast cancer risk were more than 10 percent higher than predicted by a standardized estimate based on several factors, such as their age and number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer. Only 5 percent of the participants underestimated their risk of breast cancer. Researchers found that women who overestimated their risk also had more general anxiety about screening.