Breast Cancer Screening in Saudi Arabia: Barriers and Motivators. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer remains a significant global health concern, with millions of people affected each year. In Saudi Arabia, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, making it a major public health issue. Despite efforts to promote breast cancer screening, the rates of screening in Saudi Arabia remain low. This study aims to explore the barriers and motivators to breast cancer screening as perceived by women in Saudi Arabia.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of mortality among women worldwide. In 2020, there were an estimated 7.8 million people living with breast cancer diagnosed between 2015 and 2020. The confirmed death toll was 685,000 people. In Saudi Arabia, breast cancer cases accounted for 14.2% of all cancer cases in 2020, with 29% of the cases occurring in women. Breast cancer was the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Saudi Arabia in 2020, with 1095 deaths recorded. These statistics highlight the urgent need for effective breast cancer screening programs in Saudi Arabia.
Breast cancer screening guidelines vary globally. The United Kingdom National Screening Committee (UK NSC) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend starting screening at the age of fifty using mammography imaging. However, in Saudi Arabia, the recommended starting age is forty. This is because breast cancer is the most common cancer among Saudi women, accounting for 31.8% of all registered cancers in women in the country. In an effort to reduce the prevalence of advanced disease, the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia provides free breast cancer screening for all women aged 40 and above.
Despite the availability of free breast cancer screening, studies have shown that the screening rates in Saudi Arabia are still relatively low. Several barriers to screening have been identified, including poor knowledge of breast cancer warning signs, especially among women with risk factors. Additionally, studies have shown that many women abstain from routine mammography screening, indicating the need to further understand the underlying reasons for this abstention.
To address these issues, this study aimed to investigate the barriers and motivators to breast cancer screening as perceived by women in Saudi Arabia. The study received ethical approval from the Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University Institutional Review Board and complied with the Declaration of Helsinki. Written consent was obtained from the participants, ensuring their anonymity and data security.
The study was conducted using an online survey distributed through various social media platforms. The survey included questions covering various aspects related to breast cancer screening, including participants’ pregnancy history, menstrual cycle details, medical history, mammogram screening experiences, family history of cancer, and demographic information.
A total of 973 women aged 40 and above participated in the study. The majority of participants were in their 40s, unemployed, had a bachelor’s degree, married, and Saudi nationals. In terms of health-related risk factors, most participants were overweight or obese and had never smoked. Furthermore, a significant proportion of participants had chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
Regarding breast cancer screening, nearly half of the participants had received screening at least once in their lifetime. The main reasons for screening were age, the presence of a complaint, and a family history of cancer. The distribution of screened participants differed based on age, marital status, and place of residency. Screened participants also had a higher rate of chronic diseases and a family history of breast cancer.
Among the participants who had not received breast cancer screening, the most common perceived barrier was the belief that screening was unnecessary, followed by the fear of pain during screening. Participants who believed screening was embarrassing, feared the results, thought it was unnecessary, were not interested in early detection, did not know where to obtain screening, or had an unsupportive family was less likely to undergo screening.
On the other hand, the most common motivator for screening was receiving a physician’s advice. This highlights the importance of healthcare professionals in encouraging women to undergo breast cancer screening.
Breast cancer screening rates in Saudi Arabia remain low despite efforts to promote screening. This study sheds light on the barriers and motivators perceived by women in Saudi Arabia, providing valuable insights for healthcare professionals and policymakers. Addressing these barriers, such as providing education on breast cancer warning signs and ensuring access to screening facilities, can help increase the number of women undergoing screening. By promoting early detection through effective screening programs, the burden of breast cancer can be reduced, ultimately saving lives.