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Why a Woman May Avoid a Mammogram

MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Pain, embarrassment and being too busy are among the main reasons why women avoid having mammograms, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed medical, physical and demographic information from 4,708 women at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington who had gone longer than 20 months since their last mammogram and were informed by post card and telephone that they were soon due for the breast cancer screening test.

The study of women aged 50 to 69 found the factors associated with avoiding mammograms were being younger than 60, having an annual household income of less than $40,000, being obese and having had health insurance coverage for fewer than five years.

A subset of 340 women explained why they didn't have a mammogram. The top reasons were that the test caused too much pain, they were too busy and they felt embarrassed to have the test. Obese women were much more likely than non-obese women to say that pain was a factor -- 31 percent vs. 19 percent.

"We don't know why obese women report more pain with mammograms," lead author Dr. Adrianne Feldstein, a senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said in a Kaiser news release.

"Our previous study suggests that obesity might be associated with a lower pain threshold. Nearly half of the women in our study were obese, and obese women are more likely to get breast cancer so we need to find better ways to ensure that these women are screened," she added.

Feldstein and her colleagues also found that women under 60 were more likely than those over 60 to say they were too busy to have a mammogram -- 19 percent vs. 6 percent. Offering more workplace screenings and after-hours appointments could help increase the number of younger women who have mammograms, the researchers said.

The study, published online in the Journal of Women's Health, notes that one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about mammograms.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, Jan. 31, 2011

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