• breast cancer;
  • women;
  • prevention;
  • behavior

Abstract. Objective: To assess general knowledge and preventive behaviors regarding breast cancer among women who present to an urban emergency department. Methods: During a six-month study period, a convenience sampling of women aged 21 years and older who were in treatment and waiting areas was surveyed. The anonymous written survey asked about demographic variables, knowledge, and preventive behaviors regarding breast cancer. Knowledge was assessed with questions about the recommended frequency of breast self-examination and the recommended age for first mammography. Performance was assessed by questions about breast self-exam and mammography. Subgroup analysis was done by age (above and below 40 years old), race, income (above and below the median), insurance type, history of breast lump, and family history (FH) of breast cancer. Results: Four hundred women completed surveys. Two hundred twelve (53%) correctly knew the answers to the two knowledge questions. Knowledge was greater in women with private insurance. Knowledge of the frequency of breast self-exam was significantly greater among whites and Native Americans than among African Americans, Asians, or Hispanics. Stated performance of preventive behaviors was 72% (288) for breast self-exam and for mammography. Preventive behaviors were significantly more likely to be performed by higher-income and privately-insured women. Breast self-exam was more likely to be done in older women, those with a history of a breast lump, and those with a FH of breast cancer. Conclusions: Women with lower income and without private insurance were less likely to be knowledgeable and practice preventive measures for detecting breast disease.