(HealthDay News) – Women in Pakistan need more awareness about breast health and access to early detection, and there is marked inconsistency among general practitioners (GPs) with respect to screening practices, work-up, and management, according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Sughra Raza, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the attitudes of women and GPs living in Karachi, Pakistan, regarding breast cancer, mammography screening, and local barriers to breast health care. Specifically-designed questionnaires were completed for 200 women (median age, 35 years) and 100 GPs (49% men).

The researchers found that women’s knowledge of the incidence, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer correlated with educational level; but, irrespective of educational level, there was high willingness to address breast health issues and interest in early detection. Only 16% of women had undergone clinical breast examination, and only 9% had undergone mammography. Most GPs understood major risk factors and recognized the importance of early detection. However, 30% believed that breast cancer was fatal, and 20% did not believe that breast cancer occurred in Pakistan. Female GPs were more likely to perform clinical breast examinations than male GPs (98 vs 24%).

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“This study has identified specific areas to target for educational and early detection programs,” the authors write. “Women need more awareness and access to routine examinations and mammography; GPs need more education regarding the incidence and management of breast cancer. Male GPs would benefit from having trained female assistants to perform clinical breast examinations.”

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