Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)


School of Nursing


Western Australian College of Advanced Education

First Supervisor

Anne McMurray

Second Supervisor

Amanda Blackmore


Epidemiological data reveal that breast cancer is a major health problem to women today. Although there are no known means for preventing it, detection and early diagnosis of breast cancer can be readily made through Breast Self Examination (BSE), an inexpensive, non-invasive, cost--effective procedure undertaken by women themselves. Yet, while most women have heard of BSE, very few perform it. By employing Pender's (1987) Health Promotion Model (HPM) as the theoretical nursing framework, it is possible to study reasons for this noncompliance. In this study, two areas are looked at specifically: perceived susceptibility to breast cancer and perceived benefits from BSE practice. Within the con text or framework of the HPM, the likelihood of nursing students practising BSE is expected to be greatly increased by these two determinants. It is believed that if students practise BSE regularly they would probably advocate its use in their work as nurses, resulting in an increase in the practise of BSE among the general population. An exploratory descriptive survey was used to examine the beliefs and personal BSE habits of nursing students attending the W.A.C.A.E. School of Nursing, and to test the hypothesis that BSE wil1 be more frequently practised by those students with relatively high levels of belief in perceived susceptibility and perceived benefits. In a convenience sample of 67 Semester 6 female nursing students, in which data was collected by questionnaire, the results showed that, while 90% practise BSE, only 12% were deemed to be effective. As a greater proportion of non-practitioners of BSE record~ higher belief levels in both perceived susceptibility and perceived benefits, there was no support for the hypothesis (F = 1.82; p > 0.33). These results indicate that, while nursing students view BSE as an important health behaviour, they may lack the knowledge to teach it effectively to their clients once employed as registered nurses. It is, therefore, recommended that alternative teaching strategies be evaluated and implemented to correct this deficit.