Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis in 2005 has inspired a 33 per cent increase in breast imaging of low risk women, says a new University of Melbourne study.
In the six months following Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis, there was a spurt in the number of women aged 25-44 going for mammography and breast ultrasound procedures.
The number of women aged 25-34 years who underwent breast biopsies also rose sharply. But this spike in screening activity did not lead to the detection of more cases of breast cancer, according to study leader Dr Margaret Kelaher, from the University of Melbourne's School of Population Health.
The study published this week in the International Journal of Epidemiology
, is the first to use Medicare data to analyze the impact of intense publicity following the announcement on breast imaging, biopsies to detect breast cancers and operations to remove breast tumors.
"Raising women's awareness of the need to get screened is a generally good thing. But these findings suggest that thousands of additional imaging procedures and biopsies did not improve breast cancer detection among young women," Dr Kelaher said.
"It appears there has been a situation where publicity has led to many low risk women using -- and probably overusing -- screening services," observed Dr. Kelaher.
"We need to improve the targeting of health messages and the confidence of women and their doctors in early breast cancer detection recommendations," Dr. Kelaher added.
The researchers agree that Kylie Minogue had been a great ambassador for breast cancer awareness, but the publicity raised in her case has highlighted the need for better efforts at "managing the message."
According to Dr.Kelaher, "The visibility of a celebrity's illness provides an opportunity to address a huge health problem like breast cancer. But when that celebrity is from a low risk group, it also has the potential to undercut the appropriateness and cost effectiveness of health service delivery."
Dr Julie Miller, consultant surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and senior lecturer in the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne who is a co-author of the study said, "It's important that women are breast-aware, and consult their doctor if they are concerned about any changes in their breasts.''