Background: Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer related deaths among women worldwide. The disease in women occurs at a younger age in Iran than in western communities.
Objective: To determine the practice of breast self examination (BSE) among 25–54-year-old women in Shiraz, southern Iran.
Methods: Using a stratified convenient sampling method, a total of 300 women aged 25–54 years who attended our health care centre between September 2006 and May 2007 were invited for an interview on BSE. All invited women accepted and were interviewed. The questions included demographic information, level of education, whether the participant performed BSE and, if yes, how and when. They were also asked about their source of information.
Results: The median (interquartile range (IQR)) age of participants was 38.5 (14) years. Of the 300 studied women, 283 (94.3%) were married; 160 (53.3%) performed BSE—9 (5.6%) of whom did BSE using a correct method and at an appropriate time. Of 140 non-performers, 74 (52.9%) did not know how to do BSE; the remaining women did not do BSE for fear of being found positive for cancer or did not care about it. Those who performed BSE learned it from medical personnel (n = 72, 49.4%), their relatives, and TV, radio, books, journals and pamphlets. Of those who performed BSE, 9 (5.6%) found an abnormal examination; 6 (3.8%) were found positive after further evaluation. The likelihood of performing BSE was not associated with educational level, marital status, age of participant, or how the participant learned about BSE.
Conclusions: Considering that 46.7% of participants did not perform BSE, and that almost all of those who did perform BSE did it incorrectly—and taking into account that a lack of knowledge on how to perform BSE was the main reason why most non-performers did not examine themselves—establishing educational programmes to teach women at risk may help in the early diagnosis of breast cancer.
- breast neoplasms
- breast self examination
- cancer screening
- health behaviour
- women health
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Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Obtained