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    Perceptions of breast cancer across the lifespan

    Grunfeld, Elizabeth and Hunter, M.S. and Ramirez, A.J. and Richards, M.A. (2003) Perceptions of breast cancer across the lifespan. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 54 (2), pp. 141-146. ISSN 0022-3999.

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    Objective: The risk of developing breast cancer increases with advancing age. There is evidence to suggest that delayed help-seeking for breast cancer symptoms is associated with poorer survival and that older women are more likely to delay in seeking help for such symptoms. This study examined age differences in beliefs regarding breast cancer and intentions to seek medical care for breast symptoms in a general population sample. Method: A general population sample of 546 women completed a postal questionnaire about beliefs regarding the symptoms, causes and outcomes associated with breast cancer, attitudes towards help-seeking and beliefs about one's ability to seek help. The questionnaire was based on components of the self-regulation model and the theory of planned behaviour. Help-seeking intention was measured by asking participants to rate the likelihood of visiting a general practitioner for a range of breast symptoms. The subscales of each model were entered as predictors of intention to seek help for breast symptoms in a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses performed for each age group. Results: The inability to correctly identify a range of potential breast cancer symptoms (identity subscale) was a significant predictor of intention delay in seeking help across all age groups. For women aged 35–54, negative attitudes toward medical help-seeking for breast symptoms (β=1.82, P<.05) and a negative belief in one's ability to seek help (perceived behavioural control) were additional predictors of intention not to seek help (β=0.229, P<.001). Holding negative beliefs about the consequences associated with breast cancer (i.e., that the disease could be potentially disabling or disfiguring) was found to be an important additional predictor of potential delay in help-seeking among women aged over 65 years (β=0.210, P<.05). Conclusion: Correct identification of potential breast cancer symptoms was universally important in predicting intention to seek medical care across age groups. However, additional beliefs differentially influenced help-seeking intention within different age groups. Preliminary findings suggest that interventions to reduce delay behaviour in help-seeking for breast symptoms should inform women of the diversity of breast cancer symptoms, advances in the management of breast cancer and provide advice on how to obtain help for breast cancer symptoms.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Breast cancer, Age, Illness perceptions, Delay behaviour
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2017 10:48
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:35


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