Women & Breast Health: A Gap Between Knowledge and Action


Anna Greenberg and Chris Moore
National Women's Health Resources Center

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Executive Summary

Recent research conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the National Women’s Health Resource Center shows that public education efforts aimed at increasing breast cancer awareness have been met with some success. Yet even as more and more women are becoming informed, research reveals there is still a gap between knowledge and action: Many women say they know the importance of getting regular mammograms, yet often fall behind on their screenings, do not understand the impact of age as a risk factor for developing breast cancer, and therefore underestimate their own risk for developing the disease. Moreover, some women are particularly challenged in this regard, especially women of color, lower income and less educated women, as well as women who are unsatisfied with their physical appearance.

In this report, Anna Greenberg and Chris Moore explore the relationship between knowledge and action, looking at the importance of talking about breast health with doctors and other women, as well as need for more resources to help women who are economically challenged.

Key Findings

  • A majority of women report that they have enough information about breast cancer, and demonstrate a command of the basic facts of the disease and its recommended screening procedures. A large majority of women know that they need annual mammograms and monthly breast self-exams.
  • A significant number of women know that they need to be screened, but do not follow through on that knowledge. We see the biggest gap between knowledge and action among women on the cusp of needing regular mammograms - 40 to 49 years of age.
  • Many women inaccurately identify the biggest risk factor associated with breast cancer as family history, rather than age. Older women are 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.
  • Women who are unsatisfied with their physical appearance are significantly more likely than other women are to fall behind on a variety of recommended health screenings, including mammograms.
  • Hispanic women are more concerned about breast cancer and more pessimistic about their chances of surviving it. They also demonstrate significantly lower levels of knowledge about the diseases and its recommended screening procedures. Finally, despite their willingness to discuss breast cancer with their mothers and daughters, Hispanic women are significantly less likely than other women are to have had a discussion with their health care provider about breast caner, screenings, or their personal risk of developing the disease.

Methodology

Between February 26th and March 9th, 2008, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research interviewed 815 women between the ages of 30 and 70 as well as an oversample of 114 Hispanic women. The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. The National Women’s Health Resource Center commissioned this research.