What do adolescent females know about breast cancer and prevention?

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Background: Many lifelong habits begin during adolescence. These habits can have profound, long-term ramifications on health. An important health habit is self-breast examination (SBE). The purpose of this study is to assess adolescent females' knowledge of breast cancer and breast cancer prevention. A survey was developed with questions that focused on female adolescents' knowledge of these topics. This information will assist health professionals in educating teens and forming public policy.Methods: Anonymous surveys consisting of ten questions were distributed to 280 females aged 13-17. These questions pertained to breast cancer with an emphasis on SBE, mammography, and risk factors. Questions were analyzed by chi square calculations. An additional section of the survey contained demographic characteristics of the respondents. Parental consent was obtained prior to completion of the surveys in accordance with the Institutional Review Board at St. Luke's Hospital. Surveys were administered during health class in a local high school.Results: One hundred and fifteen surveys were returned. Ages of participants were 13 to 17. The ethnic background of all participants were similar in that the majority were Caucasian. The overall percentage of correct answers was 65%. The majority of students knew what a mammogram is (92%) and how often screening should occur (65%), however, only 25% knew at what age screening should begin. It was encouraging that 80% of the students knew how often to perform SBE although only about half (53%) knew the time of the month this should be done. It was also encouraging that 83% knew that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but the knowledge regarding risk factors that could possibly affect them was poor (36%). A statistically significant findings was that in the twenty percent of the students who had been taught SBE, 10 (43.5%) actually perform them. This is in relation to 2.2% of students who perform exams without any prior instruction. There was no statistically significant difference in the final score between students who had been taught how to perform exams and students who had not.Conclusions: Developing sound health habits as an adolescent should transcend to good health maintenance practices as an adult. Our study showed that adolescent females significantly lack knowledge relating to breast cancer. Adolescent females need to be better educated on the basic facts, including risk factors, screening procedures and SBE. With the incidence of breast cancer so high, knowledge of breast cancer and its prevention may result in earlier diagnosis and subsequently better long term outcomes.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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