How healthy women and those with the disease perceive breast cancer: differences in illness beliefs.

Andrea Gibbons, AnnMarie Groarke, Ruth Curtis, Anne Marie Keane

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Aims: Perceptions of breast cancer have been implicated in the prevention and treatment of the disease, however there is evidence to suggest that the cognitions held by healthy women are vastly different to women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. The present study compared illness perceptions of breast cancer in women with a diagnosis of breast cancer, and women in the general population. Methods: Women with breast cancer (N = 40) and women from the general population (N = 80) completed measures of illness perceptions (Revised Illness Perceptions Questionnaire; IPQ-R), dispositional optimism (Life Orientation Test; LOT), anxiety, depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; HADS), and positive and negative affect (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule; PANAS). Results: Analyses (ANOVAs and T Tests) revealed that healthy women consider breast cancer to have more serious consequences (p <.005), more symptoms (p <.0001), consider breast cancer to be a more chronic disease (p <.0001), and report having more of an understanding of breast cancer (p <.05) than women with breast cancer. Healthy women were also more likely to hold stronger causal beliefs relating to behaviour; such as diet, smoking and alcohol (p <.0005) than women with the disease. In contrast, women with breast cancer were more likely to attribute chance or bad luck as a cause factor in the disease (p <.01). Conclusions: Healthy women’s perceptions of breast cancer are not accurate representations of the actual experience of the disease, and have implications for interventions to increase adherence to breast cancer screening.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

Cite this