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Study: Obese Women Avoid Mammograms

February 3, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Obese women are more likely to avoid mammograms than those who are not obese and more likely to cite pain from the procedure as a reason, according to a new study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Northwest in Portland, Oregon.

The study also found that women younger than 60 often cited being too busy as a reason for failing to get regular mammograms. Overall, the study indicated that even insurance coverage and reminders of when mammograms are due fail to induce some women to get screened. If those women are to be enticed into getting regular mammograms, some new strategy is needed.

“Our study found that, even when women have access to health care, there are still barriers to getting this important screening test,” said Adrianne Feldstein, MD, the study’s lead author and a senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center. “We need to do more to understand these barriers and help women overcome them.”

Dr. Feldstein was quoted by Medical News Today.

The study, published online last week in the Journal of Women’s Health, looked at 4,708 women ages 50-69 at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington. The women had gone more than 20 months since their last mammograms even though they had received postcard and phone call reminders.

Lower mammogram completion rates were associated with being younger than 60, having a household income of less than $40,000, being obese, and having had health insurance for less than five years.

A follow-up survey asked 677 of the women why they hadn’t returned for a mammogram; 340 completed the survey. The reasons cited most often were pain, busyness, and embarrassment about the test.

Obese women reported pain as a deterrent much more often than non-obese women, 31 percent to 19 percent.

“We don’t know why obese women report more pain with mammograms,” Dr. Feldstein said. “One 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.”

Related seminar: Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography

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