Investigators found that 80 percent of the women surveyed had detected their own breast abnormalities.
Researchers looking for a reason why breast cancers are more deadly in younger women discovered that only a small minority of young women experience long delays between the time a breast abnormality is detected and the time they receive a breast cancer diagnosis. However, delays in seeking care are more common in women with less financial resources.
A team of researchers, led by Kathryn J. Ruddy, MD, MPH, and Dr. Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, surveyed 585 different women that had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer at 40 years old or younger. Investigators found that 80 percent of the women surveyed had detected their own breast abnormalities. Among women with self-detected breast cancers, 17 percent experienced a delay of at least 90 days before they were able to visit their health care provider for an evaluation, and 12 percent reported a delay of at least 90 days between that initial visit and their actual diagnosis. Women with poor financial status were more likely to experience a delay between discovery and the initial visit.
“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 Dr. Ruddy. “The findings may lead to research focusing on whether reducing copays 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.”
The authors of this study also noted a non-significant trend toward more advanced disease in women who experienced a delay between seeing a health care provider and receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. Because significant delays only impacted a minority of women who detected their own breast abnormalities, they concluded that factors besides delays, such as tumor biology, are likely to be more influential on the breast cancer outcomes in many cases.
The findings are published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.