Breast cancer screening in Saudi Arabia: free but almost no takers

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 16;10(3):e0119051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119051. eCollection 2015.


Introduction: Mammography ensures early diagnosis and a better chance for treatment and recovery from breast cancer. We conducted a national survey to investigate knowledge and practices of breast cancer screening among Saudi women aged 50 years or older in order to inform the breast cancer national health programs.

Materials and methods: The Saudi Health Interview Survey is a national multistage survey of individuals aged 15 years or older. The survey included questions on socio-demographic characteristics, tobacco consumption, diet, physical activity, health-care utilization, different health-related behaviors, and self-reported chronic conditions. Female respondents were asked about knowledge and practices of self and clinical breast exams, as well as mammography.

Results: Between April and June 2013, a total of 10,735 participants completed the survey. Among respondents, 1,135 were women aged 50 years or older and were included in this analysis. About 89% of women reported not having a clinical breast exam in the past year, and 92% reported never having a mammogram. Women living in Al Sharqia had the highest rate of mammography use. Women who were educated, those who had received a routine medical exam within the last two years, and those who were diagnosed with hypertension were more likely to have had a mammogram in the past two years.

Discussion: Our results show very low rates of breast cancer screening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country with free health services. This calls for educational campaigns to improve breast cancer screening. Addressing the barriers for breast cancer screening is a public health imperative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Self-Examination
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Saudi Arabia

Grant support

The study was funded by the Saudi ministry of health who managed the data collection. The funders had no role in study design, data analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.