Cancer continues to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Risk factors for cancer can be categorized into non-modifiable factors such as age, gender, and genetics and modifiable factors which pertain to behavioural or lifestyle choices. Approximately 30-40% of cancers can be attributed to alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, and/or tobacco smoking. For women with breast cancer, exposure to oestrogen related factors such as the decision to delay or not to have children also increased their risk.
Health behaviour theories suggest that patients’ beliefs about the cause of their illness are associated with their psychological adjustment and way of coping.
To synthesize evidence on causal attributions or beliefs about the causes of breast cancer among women who have been previously diagnosed with the said condition.
Studies were identified via CINAHL, Pubmed, PsycINFO, and Web of Knowledge databases from October 1982- present and were evaluated according to predetermined criteria. A total of 3284 articles were identified, with 3253 articles excluded after title and abstract screening and removal of duplicates. A total of 31 articles were fully reviewed to assess eligibility.
A total of 19 studies met the inclusion criteria. Findings of this review suggest that breast cancer patients tend over-estimate the influence of non-modifiable factors such as family history and stress. There were also participants in the reviewed studies who said, that they “don’t know” what caused their breast cancer or declined to answer the said question. Among patients from ethnic minority groups, fatalistic attributions and “cancer myths” were prevalent.
A deeper understanding of factors believed by breast cancer patients to be the causes of cancer would provide insights on how to further promote positive health behaviours among this cohort.