Difference in uptake of breast cancer information by different socioeconomic groups

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More affluent women are better informed and less likely to suffer from anxiety after treatment for breast cancer than less privileged women, according to a study published in this week's British Journal of Cancer.

Research funded by Cancer Research UK Scotland examined whether women of different social status, who had been treated for breast cancer, had different levels of anxiety and support.

Previous studies have shown that women with more affluent lifestyles have better survival and quality of life than poorer women. Experts believe that knowledge is key to an enhanced quality of life.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer for women in Scotland with more than 3,600 cases diagnosed annually.

In the new study 177 Glasgow women were questioned about sources of their knowledge on breast cancer. Researchers found striking differences. Affluent women were more likely than women in deprived areas to report getting information and support from their hospital specialist or breast cancer nurse.

The results reveal that only 40 per cent of poorer women reported using breast cancer nurses as an information source compared with 70 per cent of affluent women.

The researchers found a similar pattern with other information sources. Overall, the women said they were most likely to receive information from their specialist. Seventy-six per cent of women from deprived areas asked their specialist for information compared with 95 per cent of affluent women.

The GP was a near equal source of information for both groups of women, with affluent women slightly higher at 57 per cent, and poorer women at 54 per cent.

Examining the media as a source of information, researchers found further examples of the rich-poor divide. Nearly half of affluent women cited newspapers as a source compared with less than a quarter of poorer women.

Over half of the affluent women also cited magazines compared with less than a third of poorer women. Other sources, leaflets and television news, also followed this trend with a larger percentage of affluent than poorer women using them.

Dr Una Macleod, lead researcher on the study says: "This study, for the first time, throws light on the differences in where women from deprived and affluent areas find their information. The less privileged group were less likely to seek information from their specialist or breast cancer nurse.

"This may be partly due to the constraints of attending hospital appointments – which might include things like the cost of travel, child care and loss of wages. There may also be differences in their recollection of the information they received."

She adds: "Access to good quality and reliable information can be limited for a variety of reasons, from not knowing where to look for it to a lack of time.

"Another important finding of the study was that poorer women were more likely to suffer from anxiety regarding money, other health problems and family issues. Health professionals need to be aware of these difficulties when treating patients."

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's Director of Cancer Information says: "This study highlights the difference in uptake of information by different socioeconomic groups and the need to address this.

"It is vital that information is tailored to the audience and targeted to those who need it most. All women, regardless of where they live, should have access to the best possible information and support."



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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