Attitudes of Colorado health professionals toward breast and cervical cancer screening in Hispanic women.J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 1995JN
A variety of economic, cultural, and communication barriers appear to be involved in breast and cervical cancer screening among Hispanic women. These barriers include culture-based embarrassment both for mammography and for Pap smears and fear and hopelessness concerning a diagnosis of cancer. Cost and access barriers are shared by low-income women from various ethnic and racial groups, as is a purported lack of physician referral. Hispanic women may have the latter problem enhanced by a language barrier between physicians and patients when the physicians do not speak or understand Spanish.
The goal of this project, conducted by the Cancer Education Division of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, has been to determine the attitudes and practices among health care providers in areas of Colorado with relatively large Hispanic populations (concerning screening mammography, clinical breast examination, breast self-examination, and Pap testing) and to design interventions to address any deficiencies or problems recognized. These studies were coordinated with telephone surveys and focus groups involving Hispanic women, directed by E. Flores in the Department of Sociology of the University of Colorado at Boulder and by C. Chrvala at the Colorado Department of Health.
Data were collected from 520 primary care physicians, nurses, and allied health personnel in 11 Colorado counties through focus groups and mailed questionnaires. Responses were analyzed by considering a variety of demographic characteristics of the respondents and by stratifying the associated practices by percent of Hispanic patients.
The physicians involved in the focus groups and responding to the questionnaires, as well as their associated nurses and other health care personnel, are generally familiar with the breast and cervical cancer-screening guidelines as developed and disseminated by several organizations, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. Major barriers to screening Hispanic women, as perceived by these health care providers, appear to be cost; lack of transportation, child care, and release from work; fear of diagnosis of cancer; patients considering the test unnecessary; discomfort; and embarrassment. The prompt use of colposcopy to evaluate patients whose Pap smears indicated dysplasia appeared less than optimal, especially among internists.
Familiarity with guidelines for breast and cervical cancer screening is widespread among Colorado physicians and associated health care personnel, including those with high percentages of Hispanic patients in their practices. Increased continuing education efforts may be indicated concerning the application of colposcopy to the evaluation of women with abnormal Pap smears and concerning the application of computer technology to cancer-screening reminder systems.
Educational approaches to primary care professionals may improve the effectiveness of breast and cervical cancer screening, although a variety of other approaches will also be necessary to decrease barriers to screening of Hispanic women.