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Research Article

Attendance at a breast screening clinic: a problem of administration or attitudes.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 285 doi: (Published 28 August 1982) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982;285:617
  1. K French,
  2. A M Porter,
  3. S E Robinson,
  4. F M McCallum,
  5. J G Howie,
  6. M M Roberts


    In a study of why a sample of women, aged 45-64 and registered with a group practice in Edinburgh, attended or did not attend the Edinburgh Breast Screening Clinic demographic, aetiological, social, and perceptual characteristics of attenders and non-attenders were compared. Similar proportions of attenders and non-attenders knew the chance of a breast lump being cancer and were aware of the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment. The study, however, suggests that non-attenders saw the screening clinic as a place of risk while the attenders saw screening in a positive light: 79% of non-attenders as compared with 36% of attenders said that they were afraid of cancer being found, and most women attended either to reassure themselves that they had not got breast cancer or to receive early treatment if they had. Furthermore, 72% of non-attenders as compared with 13% of attenders were anxious that their lives would be disrupted if cancer were found at the screening clinic. There may well be an important irreducible element to non-attendance due to attitudinal factors; the ethical implications of attempting to eliminate this require careful consideration.