Severely Obese Women More Likely to Skip Cancer Scans

Many may feel embarrassed at getting weighed or examined, expert says

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THURSDAY, May 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Severely obese woman are more likely than other women to skip cancer screenings, even though being severely obese increases their risk of developing and dying of cancer.

U.S. researchers analyzed data from about 8,300 women, aged 40 to 74, who took part in the 2000 National Health Interview survey.

They found that severely obese women were up to 10 percent less likely than normal-weight women to be up-to-date on clinical breast exams, mammograms and Pap smears.

The study also found that severely obese women were 51 percent less likely to adhere to doctors' recommendations for mammography and 83 percent less likely to adhere to Pap recommendations. The study did find that doctors are equally likely to recommend mammography and Pap smears to obese and non-obese women.

The study is published in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It was also presented at a meeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology in March.

It's important to learn why severely obese women (those with a body-mass index of 40 or higher) are less likely to go for cancer screenings, said lead author Jeanne Ferrante, who practices in the family medicine department at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey/New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

Ferrante plans to survey doctors to find out whether there are barriers that prevent severely obese women from being screened for cancer, such as a lack of proper equipment to examine severely obese patients.

She is also gathering information from patient focus groups, and has found that severely obese women feel embarrassed because of their weight.

"They don't like to be examined. They don't like to wear two gowns or have a scale inadequate to weigh them," Ferrante said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer screening.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, May 8, 2007

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