Leading Edge / Winter 2005
Exam Shy

South Asian immigrant women less likely to have regular breast examinations


Lack of information, modesty and a false sense of security may prevent women from immigrant backgrounds from having regular clinical breast examinations, according to a study by the University of Toronto and the University Health Network (UHN).



The study, published in the Journal of Immigrant Health, showed that although 83 per cent of the South Asian immigrant women surveyed had heard of a clinical breast examination, only 39 per cent had ever had the test. “Early detection of breast cancer increases the chance of survival, so having regular clinical breast examinations is important. Because South Asian women are at low risk from breast cancer in their native countries, they don’t realize that the risk changes once they are living in North America,” says Farah Ahmad, a PhD candidate in medicine at U of T. Ahmad co-wrote the study with Dr. Donna Stewart, a University Professor in psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology at U of T and chair of the Women’s Health Program at UHN.

The study focused on Urdu- and Hindi-speaking women residing in urban areas. Researchers also found that fewer than half the women in the study knew that mammograms are covered by Canadian health insurance, and those who had lived in Canada longer were more likely to have had the exam.


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