Breast cancer awareness in Britain: are there differences based on ethnicity?

This is the first study to investigate breast awareness and breast cancer knowledge and understanding, and breast awareness behaviours among women from different black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in Britain. The study also aimed to identify modes of dissemination that are likely to be successful in promoting breast awareness among these groups. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 816 BME women, and telephone interviews were conducted with 552 women from the general population. Findings showed significant differences in levels of breast awareness and breast cancer knowledge both between the different BME groups and between them and the general population. In particular, BME women knew much less about breast cancer, symptoms and risk factors compared with the general population. There were also differences in behaviour, with 43% of BME women reporting that they did not practise breast awareness, often because they did not know what to look for. BME women also reported lower uptake of screening invitations. These disparities in levels of breast awareness knowledge and behaviours between women from different BME groups and the general population are extremely worrying. They suggest that BME women are much less aware of the disease and are less well equipped to detect early signs of breast cancer, factors that potentially affect their treatment choices and overall prognosis. The findings clearly demonstrate the need for more inclusive breast awareness education campaigns that are relevant to, and appropriate for, a diverse population. The implications for further research and breast awareness education are also discussed.

Author(s): Anna Wood, Karen Scanlon

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