Are rural women aware of breast cancer and do they practice breast self-examination? A cross-sectional study in a rural hospital in South India

Indian J Cancer. 2021 Jan 27. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_799_19. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Indian women. Breast self-examination (BSE) remains a feasible screening method in resource-poor settings, yet diagnosis in advanced stages remains common. We aimed to assess the awareness of breast cancer and the practice of BSE among women in a rural area of south India.

Methods: A cross-sectional hospital-based study in rural Ramanagara district, Karnataka, with 416 adult women who were interviewed using the Breast Cancer Awareness Measure.

Results: Less than one in ten women knew that lump in the breast is a symptom of breast cancer. Majority 338 (81.2%) were not able to state even a single symptom of breast cancer and 365 (87.7%) not able to state even one risk factor of breast cancer. Majority 354 (85.1%) of the women in the study had never heard of BSE. None of the women in the study performed monthly BSE. Only 40 (9.6%) of the women actually performed BSE within the last 6 months. Women with higher education and those who reported a history of a lump in the breast in self or family were significantly more likely to state at least one symptom of breast cancer and were more likely to practice BSE.

Conclusion: The rural women in this study had poor awareness regarding breast cancer and poor practice of BSE. Awareness of at least one symptom of breast cancer was associated with an 18 fold increase in the practice of BSE. This study has revealed an urgent need to focus on health awareness regarding breast cancer and BSE among rural women.

Keywords: Awareness; breast cancer; breast self-examination; rural women..