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Fear, misconceptions about screenings keep many African-Americans from getting mammograms
Date:11/12/2008

Training physicians and caregivers to improve cultural sensitivity and communication with economically disadvantaged African-American patients could influence these women to get mammograms that could save their lives, according to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study found that many African-American women perceive they are being treated with disrespect and receive inadequate explanations about screenings when they go to health care facilities. These experiences influenced their decisions to skip mammograms. They also fear they won't receive correct treatment so they avoid mammograms altogether, the study adds.

"The issue here is not whether these feelings are founded or unfounded," said study author Monica Peek, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the Medical Center. "The study gives more direction to health professionals on how they can adapt their treatment styles to encourage this high-risk group of women to get screened."

The findings may help account for the huge disparity between death rates from breast cancer in white versus African-American women. Nationally, African-American women have a 35 percent higher mortality rate from breast cancer than white women, according to the National Cancer Institute. In Chicago, the mortality rate for African-American women is dramatically higher than for white women -- 73 percent -- according to the Sinai Urban Health Institute.

The findings are based on feedback gathered during focus groups that included 29 low-income African-American women who were at least 40 years old. The women were asked about their perception of mammograms, whether they would undergo one to screen for breast cancer, and other related questions.

Despite recommendations for women 40 and older to have annual mammograms, only 55 percent of the women reported having a mammogram within the last two years. One woman in the study had a history of breast cancer.

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Contact: Martha O'Connell
Martha.OConnell@uchospitals.edu
773-834-8089
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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