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Open Access Research article

The 2003 Australian Breast Health Survey: survey design and preliminary results

Elmer V Villanueva12*, Sandra Jones34, Caroline Nehill1, Simone Favelle3, David Steel5, Donald Iverson4 and Helen Zorbas1

Author Affiliations

1 National Breast Cancer Centre, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

2 Gippsland Medical School, Monash University, Churchill, VIC, Australia

3 Centre for Health Behaviour and Communication Research, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

4 Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

5 School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-13

Published: 14 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The Breast Health Surveys, conducted by the National Breast Cancer Centre (NBCC) in 1996 and 2003, are designed to gain insight into the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of a nationally representative sample of Australian women on issues relevant to breast cancer. In this article, we focus on major aspects of the design and present results on respondents' knowledge about mammographic screening.

Methods

The 2003 BHS surveyed English-speaking Australian women aged 30–69 without a history of breast cancer using computer-assisted telephone interviewing. Questions covered the following themes: knowledge and perceptions about incidence, mortality and risk; knowledge and behaviour regarding early detection, symptoms and diagnosis; mammographic screening; treatment; and accessibility and availability of information and services. Respondents were selected using a complex sample design involving stratification. Sample weights against Australian population benchmarks were used in all statistical analyses. Means and proportions for the entire population and by age group and area of residence were calculated. Statistical tests were conducted using a level of significance of 0.01.

Results

Of the 3,144 respondents who consented to being interviewed, 138 (4.4%) had a previous diagnosis of breast cancer and were excluded leaving 3,006 completed interviews eligible for analysis. A majority of respondents (61.1%) reported ever having had a mammogram and 29.1% identified mammography as being the best way of finding breast cancer. A majority of women (85.9%) had heard of the BreastScreen Australia (BSA) program, the national mammographic screening program providing free biennial screening mammograms, with 94.5% believing that BSA attendance was available regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. There have been substantial gains in women's knowledge about mammographic screening over the seven years between the two surveys.

Conclusion

The NBCC Breast Health Surveys provide a valuable picture of the knowledge of Australian women about a range of issues. The present analysis shows significant gains in knowledge and behaviours relating to mammographic screening, while identifying additional areas for targeted improvement, as in the need to better communicate with women about screening and diagnostic services. Further analysis of additional core topic areas (eg., incidence, mortality, risk and treatment) will provide equally noteworthy insight.