Encouraging mothers to talk to their daughters about breast health as well as puberty could be the key to improving early detection of breast cancer to improve health outcomes, according to new research from the McGrath Foundation.
Published today, the second annual McGrath Breast Health Index measures the level of ‘breastpertise’ in Australia. ‘Breastpertise’ refers to four criteria that make up breast health understanding: awareness, confidence in recognising changes in the breast, knowledge of risk factors for breast cancer, and behaviour in terms of frequency of checking.
For the second year running the results reveal a disconnect between belief and reality when it comes to the nation’s breast health.
Almost three quarters (73%) of Australian women believe they are breast aware, yet fewer than one in five (16%) fulfil the four criteria to be classified a ‘breastpert’.
The news is not all bad though, with women who have spoken to their mother about both breast awareness and puberty significantly more likely to qualify for all four criteria (26% vs 16% overall).
“At the McGrath Foundation we say ’if you grow them, know them’ and these findings indicate that mothers have a crucial role to play in educating the next generation about breast health,” said Jane Mahony Mission Programmes Director at the McGrath Foundation.
“As parents, plenty of us struggle with tricky topics but this research reinforces the need for Mums to have conversations with their daughters about changes in the body and breasts when talking about puberty. By doing so, you will be helping your child develop habits to keep them healthy for life and take action to promote their own health and wellbeing.”
“Early detection of breast cancer while it is still small and confined to the breast provides the best chance of effective treatment,” Mahony said.
“The McGrath Foundation provides tips for how to start the breast health conversation with your teenager and an App that makes it easy to be proactive about your breast health by showing you how to check your breasts and reminding you to check each month.”
Mahony said there is also a continuing need to redefine breast awareness so that people take into account the other aspects of ‘breastpertise’.
“Breast health understanding is more than just being breast aware. It’s important that people take responsibility for their breast health by educating themselves to improve confidence, knowledge and behaviour to improve health outcomes for current and future generations,” she said.
McGrath Breast Health Index Key Findings
- Almost three quarters (73%) of Australian women consider themselves to be breast aware, yet only 16 per cent fulfil all four criteria to be considered a ‘breastpert’: awareness, confidence in recognising changes in the breast, knowledge of risk factors for breast cancer, and behaviour in terms of frequency of checking
- Australian women who have spoken to their mother about both breast awareness and puberty are significantly more likely to be ‘breastperts’, i.e. qualify for all four index criteria – awareness, self-confidence, behaviour and knowledge (26% vs 16% overall).
- Women who first learnt about the importance of breast health from their mother are more likely to check their breasts regularly.
- Fifty per cent of Australian women believe mothers are best placed to educate young women on the importance of being breast aware. Despite this, less than a quarter (22%) have had a conversation with their mother about breast awareness.
- Of topics of conversation Australian women recall having with their mothers; only 22% have had a conversation about breast awareness, ranking well below menstruation (57%), table manners (48%) and puberty (35%).
- However, times are changing – almost half (48%) of mothers with daughters aged 10 or older have had a conversation with their daughter about breast awareness. (Still lower than puberty (67%) and table manners (65%)).
- 84 per cent agree it is appropriate to talk to young women about breast awareness as part of the conversation about puberty.
To read the second annual McGrath Breast Health Index, or to download the McGrath Foundation Curve Lurve App or for tips to start the conversation with your teenager visit www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au/