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Fear is greater than the risk; Breast cancer myths worry MDs (The Hamilton Spectator)


The Hamilton Spectator 2006.03.02 Final Local A1 Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator 570

Young women are too afraid of breast cancer and older women don't fear it enough. A survey released yesterday by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation found women drastically overestimate their chances of getting the disease. Of 800 Ontario women surveyed, 38 per cent believe they will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In reality, 12 per cent will get the disease. Those most at risk −− women over 50 −− reported feeling the least susceptible to breast cancer. It raises concern that women who need to get screened won't go and those at low risk will be needlessly worried. "The movement that was so important 20 years ago to raise awareness has to shift," said Sharon Wood, executive director of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Ontario Chapter. "We need to make sure people have the right information." Of particular concern are immigrant women and those with the lowest incomes because they know the least about breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Hamilton's public health department is trying to change this with a unique program that trains women from different cultures about a variety of health issues including breast cancer and screening. The women health educators then spread the information in their own communities. They also arrange for women to have screening such as mammograms and will even take them to the appointment. It's a small step, but one that could have dramatic results. Dr. Slobodan Franic, regional co−ordinator of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, says far fewer women would die of breast cancer in Hamilton if 70 per cent of women 50 years of age or over got a mammogram every two years. Right now, it's only 40 per cent in Hamilton and that's one of the highest percentages in the country. With increased screening, "we would bring down breast cancer mortality in this area by 35 per cent," he said. "It's vital to pick up tumours while they're tiny ... and a physical exam is not going to pick it up." The survey was conducted in October by the Institute for Social Research at York University and was funded by Re/Max and the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation Breast Centre Women's Committee. 20


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