The relationship between perceived breast cancer risk and biopsy-related stress, screening behaviors, and lifestyle practices


Lisa Bullard

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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of breast cancer risk perception on stress levels at the time of breast biopsy, as well as on screening and prevention behaviors prior to breast biopsy. Based on prior published literature, we hypothesized that women with high perceived risk would experience greater stress at the time of breast biopsy but would have been following appropriate breast cancer screening practices and healthy lifestyle choices. Standardized questionnaires were the primary tool for data collection, supplemented by chart review and brief structured interviews. Although preliminary findings did not support our hypothesis of biopsy-related stress being positively associated with perceived risk, we did find that individuals with high perceived risk were more likely to exercise regularly than women with average to moderate breast cancer risk perception in this small patient cohort (p=0.01). In addition, high perceived risk appeared to be associated with more appropriate mammogram screening and decreased tobacco use, though these were nonsignificant trends. Because subjects in our cohort uniformly reported regular alcohol intake, no associations were found between perceived risk and alcohol intake. No associations between perceived risk and breast self-exam frequency or body mass index (BMI) were found. Too few respondents were available to evaluate the association between perceived risk and clinical breast exam frequency. Future studies using a larger patient cohort will lead to more conclusive results.


City of Hope




Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Grant

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