Awareness about Breast Cancer and Breast Self-Examination among Female Students at the University of Sharjah: A Cross-Sectional Study

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 College of Health Sciences, University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

2 Simon Fraser University, Canada.

Abstract

Background: Breast cancer is a leading cause of mortality among women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Many young women in the UAE have poor knowledge about breast cancer screening, including risk factors and
warning signs/symptoms. We investigated awareness about breast cancer and breast self-examination (BSE) as a
screening tool among female students at the University of Sharjah, UAE. Methods: This study used a cross sectional
survey design. Participants were 241 undergraduate female students (aged ≥18 years) from three University of Sharjah
campuses. Data were collected from March to April 2017 using a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire
covered: sociodemographic characteristics; knowledge about breast cancer, risk factors, and warning signs/symptoms;
and knowledge and practice of BSE. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and Pearson’s chi-square tests.
Results: About 38.6% of participants were from the Medical campus, 37.3% were from the Women’s campus, and
24% were from the Fine Arts and Design campus. Most (99%) participants had heard of breast cancer. About 50% were
knowledgeable about the risk factors, but only 38% were knowledgeable about warning signs/symptoms. The most
commonly identified risk factors were family and personal histories of breast cancer, and the most commonly identified
warning sign/symptom was breast lump. There was a significant association between knowledge about risk factors
and campus type. Participants from the Medical campus were more knowledgeable about risk factors than participants
from the other two campuses. Overall, 68.5% of participants had heard of BSE, but few participants actually performed
BSE. Reasons for not performing BSE included “forgetting” and “not knowing how.” Conclusions: Although most
participants were aware of breast cancer, knowledge about risk factors and warning signs/symptoms was relatively
poor. Knowledge about performing BSE was particularly low. This highlights the importance of increasing awareness
about breast cancer and BSE among young women in the UAE.

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