Background: Breast cancer accounted for almost 25% of all cancers in women globally in 2012. Althoughbreast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in India, there is no organised national breast cancer screeningprogramme. Local studies on the burden of breast cancer are essential to develop effective context-specificstrategies for an early detection breast cancer programme, considering the cultural and ethnic heterogeneityin India. This study examined the knowledge, attitudes, and practices about breast cancer in rural women inCentral India. Materials and
Methods: This community-based cross sectional study was conducted in Wardhadistrict, located in Maharashtra state in Central India in 2013. The sample included 1000 women (609 rural,391 urban) aged 13-50 years, selected as representative from each of the eight development blocks in the district,using stratified cluster sampling. Trained social workers interviewed women and collected demographic andsocio-economic data. The instrument also assessed respondents’ knowledge about breast cancer and its symptoms,risks, methods of screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as their attitudes towards breast cancer and selfreportedpractices of breast cancer screening. Chi-square and t-test were applied to assess differences in the levelsof knowledge, attitude, and practice (the outcome variables) between urban and rural respondents. Multivariablelinear regression was conducted to analyse the relationship between socio-demographic factors and the outcomevariables.
Results: While about two-thirds of rural and urban women were aware of breast cancer, less than7% in rural and urban areas had heard about breast self-examination. Knowledge about breast cancer, itssymptoms, risk factors, diagnostic modalities, and treatment was similarly poor in both rural and urban women.Urban women demonstrated more positive attitudes towards breast cancer screening practices than their ruralcounterparts. Better knowledge of breast cancer symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment correlatedsignificantly with older age, higher levels of education, and being office workers or in business.
Conclusions:Women in rural Central India have poor knowledge about breast cancer, its symptoms and risk factors. Breastself-examination is hardly practiced, though the willingness to learn is high. Positive attitudes towards screeningprovide an opportunity to promote breast self-examination.