Background: Previous research showed that deprived individuals are less likely to attend breast screening and those providing intense amounts of informal care tend to be more deprived than non-caregivers. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between informal caregiving and uptake of breast screening and to determine if socio-economic gradients in screening attendance were explained by caregiving responsibilities.
Methods: A database of breast screening histories was linked to the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study, which links information from census, vital events and health registration datasets. The cohort included women aged 47 - 64 at the time of the census eligible for breast screening in a three-year follow-up period. Cohort attributes were recorded at the Census. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between informal caregiving and uptake of screening using STATA version 10.
Results: 37,211 women were invited for breast screening of whom 27,909 (75%) attended; 23.9% of the cohort were caregivers. Caregivers providing <20 hours of care/week were more affluent, while those providing >50 hours/week were more deprived than non-caregivers. Deprived women were significantly less likely to attend breast screening; however, this was not explained by caregiving responsibilities as caregivers were as likely as non-caregivers to attend (Odds Ratio 0.97; 95% confidence intervals 0.88, 1.06).
Conclusions: While those providing the most significant amounts of care tended to be more deprived, caregiving responsibilities themselves did not explain the known socio-economic gradients in breast screening attendance. More work is required to identify why more deprived women are less likely to attend breast screening.