BACKGROUND: Routine mammography improves survival. To achieve health benefits, women must attend breast screening regularly at recommended time intervals. Maltese women are routinely invited to undergo mammography at three-year intervals at an organized breast screening programme (MBSP) or can opt to attend a private clinic. Previous research shows that health beliefs, particularly perceived barriers, were the most significant predictors of uptake to the first MBSP invitation. Whether these beliefs and other factors are predictive of adherence with recommended time intervals for mammography at organized or private screening in Malta is unknown. For the first time, this paper explores the predictors for Maltese women screened within or exceeding the recommended three-year frequency in organized or private screening in Malta.
METHODS: Information was obtained from a cross-sectional survey of 404 women, aged 50 to 60 years at the time of their first MBSP invitation, where women's characteristics, knowledge, health beliefs and illness perceptions were compared. The main variable of interest was women's mammography attendance within a three-year interval (ADHERENT) or exceeding three years (NON-ADHERENT). Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, chi-square test, Mann Whitney test, Independent Samples t-test and Shapiro Wilk test.
RESULTS: At the time of the survey, 80.2% (n = 324) had been screened within three years (ADHERENT), 5.9% (n = 24) had exceeded the three-year frequency (NON-ADHERENT) while 13.9% (n = 56) never had a mammogram. No significant associations were found between ADHERENT or NON-ADHERENT women in relation to sociodemographic or health status variables (p > 0.05). Knowledge of screening frequency was significantly associated with women's mammography adherence (χ2 = 5.5, p = 0.020). Health beliefs were the strongest significant predictors to describe the variance between ADHERENT and NON-ADHERENT screeners. When Mann Whitney test and Independent Samples t-test were applied on mammography adherence, perceived barriers and cues to action were found to be the most important predictors (p = 0.000, p = 0.039 respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: To increase routine and timely mammography practices, women who are non-adherent to recommended time frequency guidelines should be targeted, together with their health beliefs, predominantly perceived barriers and cues to action.