Breast cancer

Updated 12 November 2013

Poorer women delay breast examination

Younger women with limited finances are more likely than others to delay seeking medical attention after finding an abnormality in their breast.


Younger women with limited finances are more likely than others to delay seeking medical attention after finding an abnormality in their breast, according to a new study.

The study of nearly 600 women recently diagnosed with breast cancer suggested that strategies to improve early diagnosis of breast cancer should take a woman's financial situation into account.

"Because we discovered that women who are less financially comfortable are more likely to delay seeking medical attention for breast abnormalities that later are diagnosed as breast cancer, it appears that economic disparity may be an important consideration in future development of interventions to reduce delays," said study leader Dr Kathryn Ruddy, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The study was published online in the journal Cancer.

Improving timelines

"The findings may lead to research focusing on whether reducing co-pays and hidden costs of seeking medical care – such as parking charges, child-care expenses and lost wages – may improve the timeliness of diagnosis in this population," Ruddy said in a journal news release.

The survey of women aged 40 and younger revealed that 80% of them found an abnormality in their breast on their own. Seventeen percent waited at least three months before seeing a doctor.

Moreover, 12% of the women who delayed seeing a doctor experienced a lapse of at least 90 days between that appointment and receiving their diagnosis.

Major delays in seeking treatment affect only a minority of women who detect their own breast cancer, the researchers said. As a result, other factors, such as the type of tumour, likely have a bigger influence on breast cancer results.

More information

The US National Cancer Institute provides more information on cancer health disparities.

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Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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