We all have things we’d like to change about our bodies, but according to a new study, women who don’t like their breasts are actually less likely to check them for potentially cancerous lumps, a mistake that can have life-threatening consequences. The research comes from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, where doctors surveyed almost 400 women and found that 75 percent wished to change their breasts in some way. A third of all the women surveyed admitted to self-checking for lumps rarely or never, leading the researchers to believe there may be some correlation between the two.
“Our findings suggest that greater breast size dissatisfaction is significantly associated with less frequent breast self-examination, lower confidence in detecting breast change, and greater delay in seeing a doctor following breast change,” Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology, said in a statement. “For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image and so they may engage in avoidance behaviours. Breast size dissatisfaction may also activate negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and embarrassment, that results in avoiding breast self-examination.”
To be fair, this is a pretty small sample size, and other than the overlapping percentages, there’s not much to prove causation. But, if you think about it, the conclusion does logically make sense. After all, how much time do you really want to spend touching, looking at, or thinking about a body part that makes you feel bad about yourself?
As with many diseases, early detection is key in the battle against breast cancer. The Johns Hopkins Medical Center reports that approximately 40 percent of breast cancer diagnoses come from self-screenings conducted by women in their own home, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends women self-check for lumps and other irregularities in their breasts at least once a month. Due to normal hormonal fluctuations, you should pick the same time every month.
The Anglia Ruskin study did come with some reassuring news: 55 percent of women said they would see their doctor ASAP if they were to find an irregularity of any kind in their breast. Unfortunately, one in ten said they would delay making an appointment for as long as possible, while 2 percent admitted they probably wouldn’t make one at all.
“Promoting greater breast size satisfaction may be a means of empowering women to incorporate breast self-examinations and breast awareness into their health practice,” notes professor Swami. “And promoting greater breast awareness may be a useful means of helping women view their breasts in more functional terms, rather than purely aesthetic terms.”