Objectives: To assess cancer perceptions, beliefs, and barriers to prevention among African-American residents of West Baltimore for the purpose of informing community cancer control initiatives.
Design and methods: We conducted focus group interviews with local healthcare providers and African-American Baltimore City residents. Focus group interviews were read and analyzed using qualitative analytic techniques, emphasizing themes and patterns in responses.
Results: The community member and local healthcare provider focus groups identified strikingly similar themes. In particular, participants in both groups discussed the pervasive fear and stigma associated with cancer within the African-American community. Both groups identified cancer fatalism, misperceptions of the nature of cancer and its treatment, competing priorities, and a 'crisis orientation' toward medical care as key barriers to prevention and early diagnosis. Participants in all focus groups were also acutely concerned about community distrust of the healthcare system.
Conclusions: The principal themes identified in this hypothesis-generating study were potentially modifiable factors, giving rise to optimism that interventions informed by these results could have a substantial impact on cancer control in this community.