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J Athl Train. 1998 Jan-Mar; 33(1): 45–49.
PMCID: PMC1320375

Cancer Detection: The Educational Role of the Athletic Trainer

Candice E. Zientek, PhD, CC, AAASP and Lori L. Dewald, EdD, ATC, CHES



We found in an earlier study that while 26% of athletic trainers had worked with athletes with cancer, only 8% had taught their athletes self-examination procedures. In an attempt to examine why athletic trainers do not teach their athletes self-examination procedures, we investigated athletic trainers' knowledge of breast and testicular cancer risk factors and detection techniques.

Design and Setting:

One hundred researcher-developed questionnaires were distributed at the 1994 National Athletic Trainers' Association Annual Meeting.


Sixty-nine certified athletic trainers with an average age of 32 years. Seventy-two percent held master's degrees.


SPSS-X was used to analyze the results of the study, and chi-square tests were used to compare the athletic trainers' responses by gender.


Over 91% of the athletic trainers had never been taught about either breast or testicular self-examination in their athletic training education. Nearly half of the respondents did not know any of the nine breast cancer risk factors, although females reported significantly more knowledge of risk factors than males. Ninety-one percent of athletic trainers knew none of the four testicular risk factors, although male respondents reported significantly more knowledge of testicular cancer risk factors than females. On a Likert scale, 46% rated breast cancer and 41% rated testicular cancer as being “of little concern” to athletic trainers.


Cancer risk factors and detection techniques should be taught in the athletic training curriculum. As advocates for health and wellness, athletic trainers should then teach this information to their athletes.

Full text

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Dewald L, Zientek C. A survey of athletic trainers as health care advocates for testicular and breast self-examination in athletic populations. J Athl Train. 1996 Jan;31(1):19–22. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Schlueter LA. Knowledge and beliefs about breast cancer and breast self-examination among athletic and nonathletic women. Nurs Res. 1982 Nov-Dec;31(6):348–353. [PubMed]
  • Goldenring JM, Purtell E. Knowledge of testicular cancer risk and need for self-examination in college students: a call for equal time for men in teaching of early cancer detection techniques. Pediatrics. 1984 Dec;74(6):1093–1096. [PubMed]
  • Stillman MJ. Women's health beliefs about breast cancer and breast self-examination. Nurs Res. 1977 Mar-Apr;26(2):121–127. [PubMed]
  • Dachs RJ, Garb JL, White C, Berman J. Male college students' compliance with testicular self-examination. J Adolesc Health Care. 1989 Jul;10(4):295–299. [PubMed]
  • Klein JF, Berry CC, Felice ME. The development of a testicular self-examination instructional booklet for adolescents. J Adolesc Health Care. 1990 May;11(3):235–239. [PubMed]
  • Vaz RM, Best DL, Davis SW. Testicular cancer. Adolescent knowledge and attitudes. J Adolesc Health Care. 1988 Nov;9(6):474–479. [PubMed]
  • Vaz RM, Best DL, Davis SW, Kaiser M. Evaluation of a testicular cancer curriculum for adolescents. J Pediatr. 1989 Jan;114(1):150–153. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association