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Knowledge, attitude and practice of Nigerian women towards breast cancer: A cross-sectional study

Michael N Okobia12*, Clareann H Bunker1, Friday E Okonofua3 and Usifo Osime2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA

2 Department of Surgery, College of Medical Sciences, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medical Sciences, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

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World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2006, 4:11  doi:10.1186/1477-7819-4-11

Published: 21 February 2006



Late presentation of patients at advanced stages when little or no benefit can be derived from any form of therapy is the hallmark of breast cancer in Nigerian women. Recent global cancer statistics indicate rising global incidence of breast cancer and the increase is occurring at a faster rate in populations of the developing countries that hitherto enjoyed low incidence of the disease. Worried by this prevailing situation and with recent data suggesting that health behavior may be influenced by level of awareness about breast cancer, a cross-sectional study was designed to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of community-dwelling women in Nigeria towards breast cancer.


One thousand community-dwelling women from a semi-urban neighborhood in Nigeria were recruited for the study in January and February 2000 using interviewer-administered questionnaires designed to elicit sociodemographic information and knowledge, attitude and practices of these women towards breast cancer. Data analysis was carried out using Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) version 8.2.


Study participants had poor knowledge of breast cancer. Mean knowledge score was 42.3% and only 214 participants (21.4%) knew that breast cancer presents commonly as a painless breast lump. Practice of breast self examination (BSE) was low; only 432 participants (43.2%) admitted to carrying out the procedure in the past year. Only 91 study participants (9.1%) had clinical breast examination (CBE) in the past year. Women with higher level of education (X2 = 80.66, p < 0.0001) and those employed in professional jobs (X2 = 47.11, p < 0.0001) were significantly more knowledgeable about breast cancer. Participants with higher level of education were 3.6 times more likely to practice BSE (Odds ratio [OR] = 3.56, 95% Confidence interval [CI] 2.58–4.92).


The results of this study suggest that community-dwelling women in Nigeria have poor knowledge of breast cancer and minority practice BSE and CBE. In addition, education appears to be the major determinant of level of knowledge and health behavior among the study participants. We recommend the establishment and sustenance of institutional framework and policy guidelines that will enhance adequate and urgent dissemination of information about breast cancer to all women in Nigeria.