“Alarming” levels of breast health awareness


Only 10% of women can correctly identify the key risk factors for breast cancer, according to a McGrath Foundation survey

The survey comprising 1,288 Australian women aged 16 and over, as well as some of their daughters aged 10 and over, looked at four criteria related to breast health: awareness, confidence, knowledge, and behaviour.

Findings revealed that while the majority (73%) of Australian women believes themselves to be ‘somewhat or very breast aware’, only 15% actually met all four survey criteria.

Women aged 20-30 were more likely than any other age group to qualify for only one, or none, of these criteria, while participants who had had a conversation with their own mother about breast awareness were more likely to meet all four criteria (23% compared with 15%).

Only 10% of participants could correctly identify all six of the key risk factors for breast cancer, including strong family history of breast cancer; being a woman; being a smoker; growing older; drinking alcohol; and, starting menstruation earlier or menopause later.

“This research shows that ‘knowing’ your breasts is a lot more than simply being breast aware,” says McGrath Foundation CEO Petra Buchanan.

“We hope that this research helps people across Australia ‘get a grip’ on their breast health – educate themselves, and have the right conversations, to build a new generation of breastperts.

Buchanan reminds people that while the research focuses on women, the outcomes are applicable to everyone in Australia.

“Although it’s primarily a disease that affects women, around 150 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year as well,” she says.

These results show awareness is not sufficient to effect behavioural change to identify potential changes in the breast and seek advice from a healthcare professional, the report warns.

“We know that this awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Uptake for government-funded mammograms is slightly more than 55%, despite widespread education about the important of early detection.

“Being aware must be accompanied by confidence, knowledge of risk factors, and frequent checking, in order to make a difference to long-term breast health in Australia,” the report concludes.

Research was independently carried out by AMR for the McGrath Foundation, with the results summarised into the foundation’s inaugural Breast Health Index, entitled Getting a grip: A Report into Breast Health Understanding Among Women in Australia.

The index will be released annually to provide a means of tracking trends and measuring which areas require further educational efforts.

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