Prevalence of routine breast cancer screening practices among migrant-Australian women

February 8, 2018, University of Western Sydney
Prevalence of routine breast cancer screening practices among migrant-Australian women
Credit: University of Western Sydney

Despite increased awareness of the prevalence of breast cancer and importance of early detection, a Western Sydney University study found that Australian immigrant women are still not getting the message.

Dr. Cannas Kwok from the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery has led five studies since 2009 to investigate Australian immigrant women's beliefs, as well as their attitudes toward and knowledge of practices.

1,744 women over the age of 18, who immigrated to Australia and self-identified as being of African, Arabic, Korean, Indian or Chinese descent, completed the Breast Cancer Screening Beliefs Questionnaire (BCSBQ).

The five studies have undergone a secondary analysis and a discussion paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (opens in new window) has revealed:

  • Only 19 per cent of women demonstrated that they are 'breast aware'
  • 27.4 per cent of women aged 40 or above had presented for annual clinical breast examinations (CBE)
  • 60.6 per cent of women in the 50–74 years age group had attended biannual mammograms.

Since 2009 awareness campaigns in Australia have focused on ensuring that women are 'breast aware.' However the studies reveal a level of disengagement amongst immigrant women.

"The message is for women to be familiar with the normal appearance and feel of their breasts so that they are able to detect any changes," says Dr. Kwok.

"For migrant women, the breast aware message is not culturally sensitive. In the African, Arabic, Korean, Indian and Chinese communities surveyed, the subject of looking after their breasts is not a common topic – it is not appropriate to openly discuss one's breasts, and women may not feel comfortable touching their own breasts."

The studies revealed a number of other factors that impacted Australian immigrant women's breast awareness – including the length of time that they had been living in Australia; their employment status; relationship status; and knowledge of the English language.

"The longer they had lived in Australia, the more likely the women were to have had a mammogram or CBE. Women with a current partner were more likely to participate in all screenings, and English-proficient women were more likely to have a mammogram," says Dr. Kwok.

"Conversely, women who were currently employed were less likely to attend annual CBEs."

As a result of these insights, Dr. Kwok says the studies have identified a subset of the migrant population that needs to be retargeted with health promotion messages.

"Immigrant women who are younger than 50 years of age, newly arrived in Australia, and those without a partner are the most disengaged groups," she says.

"Additional efforts should be directed at promoting breast awareness among this at-risk population – with a specific focus on educating women on the importance of regular self-checks, and check-ups with their doctors.

"For women of diverse cultural backgrounds, peer-to-peer influence is very important. So health promotion activities should take a community approach that encourages to talk to each other."

Explore further: Breast size dissatisfaction affects self-examination

More information: Michelle Lam et al. Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of routine breast cancer screening practices among migrant-Australian women, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2017). DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12752

Related Stories

Breast size dissatisfaction affects self-examination

January 4, 2018
New research shows that women who are dissatisfied with the size of their breasts are less likely to carry out regular self-examinations to screen for breast cancer.

Most women unaware of breast density's effect on cancer risk, study finds

November 21, 2016
Most women don't know that having dense breasts increases their risk for breast cancer and reduces a mammogram's ability to detect cancer, according to a University of Virginia School of Medicine study.

Abbreviated breast MRI may be additional screening option for dense breasts

November 28, 2017
Among women with dense breast tissue, for whom traditional mammograms are less effective at detecting cancer, who request additional screening after a negative mammogram, abbreviated breast MRI (AB-MR) may be a valuable cancer ...

Breast cancer screenings still best for early detection

October 12, 2017
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, and routine screenings remain the most reliable way to detect the disease early, a breast cancer expert says.

Breast cancer awareness: What women need to know

September 28, 2016
As national Breast Cancer Awareness Months begins next week, breast health expert Dr. Sharon Koehler of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, says women need to know the following five things:

Breast density matters in detection of breast cancer

October 4, 2016
Almost 8% of women have extremely high breast density, which can make it harder for health professionals to detect breast cancer on a screening mammogram. These women are also more likely to develop breast cancer in the future.

Recommended for you

Fully reprogrammed virus offers new hope as cancer treatment

May 25, 2018
A cancer treatment that can completely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells could soon be a possibility, thanks to research led by Cardiff University.

Research could help fine-tune cancer treatment

May 25, 2018
Cancer therapies that cut off blood supply to a tumour could be more effective in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs—according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Increasing physical activity linked to better immunity in breast cancer patients, study finds

May 25, 2018
A new study from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education has found that moderate to vigorous physical activity may help regulate the levels of C-reactive protein – an important biomarker ...

Low-fat diet tied to better breast cancer survival

May 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer patients who adopted a low-fat diet were more likely to survive for at least a decade after diagnosis, compared to patients who ate fattier fare, new research shows.

A cascade of immune processes offers insights to triple-negative breast cancer

May 24, 2018
Cancer is crafty. To survive and thrive, tumors find a way of thwarting our body's natural systems.

By forming clots in tumors, immune cell aids lung cancer's spread

May 24, 2018
University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have found that by helping to form clots within tumors, immune cells that flock to a particular type of lung cancer are actually building a foundation ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.