British women unhappy with their breasts are less likely to carry out cancer checks

Thursday, 4th January 2018, 1:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th January 2018, 2:51 pm

Women conscious about the size of their boobs are less likely to carry out regular self-examinations for breast cancer, according to a new study.

And researchers found that body-conscious women who do detect a change in their breasts are less likely to visit a doctor straight away.

Three out of four of more than 380 British women surveyed said they wanted either smaller (31 per cent) or larger breasts (44 per cent) while a third admitted rarely or never checking their boobs for cancer.

Study leader Professor Viren Swami, of Anglia Ruskin University, said practitioners need to promote greater breast-size satisfaction to improve the early detection of cancer.

He said: "Our findings suggest that greater breast size dissatisfaction is significantly associated with less frequent breast self-examination, lower confidence in detecting breast change, and greater delay in seeing a doctor following breast change.

"For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image and so they may engage in avoidance behaviours.

"Breast size dissatisfaction may also activate negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and embarrassment, that results in avoiding breast self-examination."

Viewing breasts in functional, not aesthetic terms

The study, published in the Body Image journal, asked 384 British women about their breast-size satisfaction.

And despite 55 per cent of women saying they would see their doctor immediately if they detected a change during an examination, one in ten said they would delay for as long as possible or not see a doctor at all.

Prof Swami, a social psychologist at Anglia Ruskin, added: "Promoting greater breast awareness may be a useful means of helping women view their breasts in more functional terms, rather than purely aesthetic terms."

More than 50,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, making it the most common form of the disease among females.

About one in eight British women will develop the disease at some point in their lives, statistics show.

Experts recommend women check their breasts regularly for any unusual changes so the disease can be spotted early, increasing the success of treatment.

Prof Swami added: "It is also important for healthcare practitioners to be mindful of the impact that dissatisfaction with one's breasts may have on self-examination behaviours and outcomes."

The NHS also encourages women to learn what their breasts look and feel like so an abnormal changes can be spotted early and examined by a doctor. Learn how to check your breasts here.