Breast cancer screening and African American women: fear, fatalism, and silence.

J. M. Phillips, M. Z. Cohen, G. Moses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To explore the beliefs, attitudes, and practices related to breast cancer and breast cancer screening among low- and middle-income African American women. DESIGN: Qualitative study using focus group methodology. SAMPLE/SETTING: 26 African American women, age 40-65, selected from three employment groups, recruited from a community-based center and a local teacher's union in a moderate-sized urban area. METHODS: Three 90-minute focus group discussions exploring breast cancer beliefs, attitudes, and practices were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using thematic context analysis techniques. FINDINGS: When breast cancer was discussed, fear was the predominant feeling expressed in all groups. This fear was a primary reason not to engage in breast cancer screening. Unemployed women and service workers emphasized the role of violence in causing breast cancer, whereas teachers discussed injury and sex as causing breast cancer. All participants stressed that breast cancer is seldom discussed within the African American community. Teachers added that this secrecy within the African American community leads to breast cancer being viewed as a white woman's disease. CONCLUSIONS: Despite initiatives promoting breast cancer awareness. African American women still hold misconceptions regarding the etiology of breast cancer and fatalistic perspectives regarding breast cancer outcomes, perhaps because breast cancer is discussed infrequently. Because pain, fear, and fatalism were discussed in all groups, future research should address the influence of these factors to increase screening behaviors. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Because unemployed women, service workers, and teachers differed in their beliefs about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, nurses must be mindful of the need to tailor Interventions to address the needs of both low- and middle-income African American women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-571
Number of pages11
JournalOncology nursing forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)


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