Previous research suggests that strong patriarchal influence as well as suspicion of Western medicine could be barriers to cancer screening among women, and that men may make the decisions about critical medical conditions of Hmong women. However, those earlier studies did not survey both men and women about family influences on cancer screening.
Kue, who conducted the research while doing her doctoral studies at OSU, said she was surprised at the amount of autonomy reported by both male and female respondents. There also seemed to be greater use of health services among the Oregon Hmong interviewed.
For instance, 75 percent of women in the study had a clinical breast examination at least once; 79 percent of women 40 and older had received a mammogram at some point in their lives; and 84 percent of women had gone to the doctor for a Pap smear. In comparison, the few national studies conducted of Hmong women show low rates of breast and cervical cancer screening, ranging from 27 to 74 percent.
However, Kue said these results do not mean that health barriers do not exist.
"It is not enough to have been screened once because we want women to get screened regularly," Kue said. "There have been so few studies done of the Hmong that it can be difficult to draw conclusions. What we do know is that this is a population at high risk."
Still, the researchers said they were surprised that so few people reported that husbands or other male family members were influencing decisions. What their study did show was that overall, most women did not talk about their health with their husband or family members, and kept screening decisions private.
"In our culture, we place a heavy emphasis on communal decision-making and it's male-dominant, so I would have expected men to have more influence," Kue said.
Thorburn said this qualitative stu
|Contact: Sheryl Thorburn|
Oregon State University