Younger women at increased risk for breast cancer: perceived risk, psychological well-being, and surveillance behavior.

C. Lerman, K. Kash, Michael Edward Stefanek

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The problem of breast cancer in younger women has received increased attention in recent years. As yet, however, little is known about the surveillance patterns and psychological characteristics of younger women who are at increased risk for this disease. This report presents a summary of preliminary data on risk perceptions, surveillance behaviors, and psychological well-being among women with a family history of breast cancer, with particular attention to younger women (under age 50). These data show that over three fourths of women aged 29 and younger hold the belief that they are likely to develop breast cancer; this finding was not significantly different in other age groups. Surprisingly, over one third of women aged 29 and younger had received mammograms; over one half of women aged 30-34 had mammograms; and over three fourths of women aged 35 and older had mammograms. As many as one half of women aged 35-39 had mammograms within the past year. Serious psychological morbidity was not noted in the samples; however, one third of women of all ages reported breast cancer worries that impair their daily functioning. Psychological distress was associated with nonadherence to mammography and with both infrequent and excessive breast self-examination practice. These data provide the basis for recommendations for research on breast cancer risk counselling for younger women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-176
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute. Monographs
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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