Cancer Screening and Risk-Reducing Behaviors of Women Seeking Genetic Cancer Risk Assessment for Breast and Ovarian Cancers
Purpose/Objectives: To examine breast and ovarian cancer screening and risk-reducing behaviors of women seeking genetic cancer risk assessment (GCRA).
Design: Descriptive, cross-sectional.
Setting: An insurance-based clinic that serves high-risk patients in a southern California cancer center.
Sample: 134 women with breast or ovarian cancer (affected group) and 80 women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer (unaffected group). The mean age of the sample was 48 years (range = 21-86), 79% were Caucasian, 66% were married, 60% were college educated, and 78% had children. Most affected women had early-stage disease. Unaffected women had a family history of breast (86%) or ovarian (14%) cancer.
Methods: Mailed surveys assessed pre-GCRA health behaviors and health and family histories.
Main Research Variables: Breast cancer screening (mammograms, clinical breast examination [CBE], breast self-examination), ovarian cancer screening (CA-125, pelvic ultrasound), and breast and ovarian cancer risk-reducing strategies (tamoxifen, bilateral mastectomy, oral contraceptive pills, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy).
Findings: Twenty-one percent of the women who should have been having a mammogram had not had an annual examination as recommended, and 30% of affected women had not had annual CBEs. Few women took tamoxifen or oral contraceptive pills or had a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy or bilateral mastectomy for cancer risk reduction. Twelve percent likely had unnecessary ovarian cancer screening. About 35% used other means, including herbs and homeopathy, for cancer prevention.
Conclusions: Nearly a third of the affected women had not had appropriate breast cancer screening. About 12% used unsubstantiated, potentially harmful cancer "prevention" measures (e.g., herbs).
Implications for Nursing: Nurses should assess clients' personal and family breast and ovarian cancer histories and promote cancer screening and risk-reducing behaviors that are appropriate for age and risk level.
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