More Than Half of Women Surveyed Say Their Gynacs Haven’t Mentioned Breast Exams
In our first analysis based on our survey with 1,099 women regarding their reproductive health care, 72% of women said their gynecologist has never mentioned breast cancer screening to them, or has mentioned it only in passing. In this article, we’ll look at that breakdown a little more closely.
This means that only 28% of women report their gynacs have discussed breast health – either self-exams or mammography – with them thoroughly. Of these, only 11% of women report their doctors have proactively addressed breast health. This is a problem; proactivity in this area of women’s reproductive health actually saves lives. Breast exams are aimed at identifying breast cancer. India is known for having a low incidence of breast cancer – but one of the highest rates of breast cancer deaths in the world. This is widely acknowledged to be due to untimely diagnosis. Breast cancer is highly treatable when diagnosed in early stages, but stigma against the disease – as well as a lack of awareness about proactive monitoring for it – keep women from getting the care they need in time to save their lives.
The survey results might be a function of age – breast cancer risk, like the risk of any cancer, increases with age. In fact, current guidelines say women who are not high-risk in other ways (genetics, lifestyle habits like smoking) should only start getting regular mammograms at age 50 (though self-exams can be done, and are recommended, at any age).
If doctors are waiting to discuss breast exams with the women most at-risk, we could expect women in the oldest age group surveyed — 46 to 55 — to report being overwhelmingly informed about breast health. This is not the case. While it’s true more women in this age group reported having discussed breast health with their gynacs, than women in any other age group, 40% of them still said their doctor had never mentioned the topic. Of the women who said their doctors had brought up the topic, only one-third called the conversation thorough; the rest said their doctors had mentioned the topic briefly, in passing.
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The survey responses reveal another trend in gynecological care, one that speaks to a larger issue in health care in India: the silo-ing of quality care. Most of the women who report receiving thorough and/or proactive information about breast health, also report receiving similarly thorough and/or proactive information about birth control options and HPV/cervical cancer prevention.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these women are far and away more likely to leave a visit to their gynaecologist feeling satisfied – 87% of women who reported thoroughly discussing breast health with their gynac also reported satisfaction with their care; 94% of women who reported discussing breast health proactively with their gynac also reported satisfaction.