Barriers to breast cancer screening for low-income Mexican and Dominican women in New York City

J Urban Health. 2003 Mar;80(1):81-91. doi: 10.1007/pl00022327.


The proportion of Mexican and Dominican women has increased rapidly in New York City and in other urban areas, and breast cancer screening rates continue to be lower for Latina women as a whole, but particularly for some nationality subgroups. The current analysis explored the reasons why Mexican and Dominican women from medically underserved communities in New York City do not seek breast cancer screening. Data were collected through interviews with 298 Mexican and Dominican women aged 40-88 years; the interviews included an open-ended question on the barriers women face in seeking screening. The three most commonly cited barriers were not taking care of oneself (descuido) (52.3%), lack of information (49.3%), and fear (44.6%). Women who had been screened cited fear, pain, or other personal barriers more often, but women who had never had a mammogram cited cost or other logistical barriers. Responses from Dominican and Mexican women were significantly different, with Mexican women more often citing shame or embarrassment and Dominican women more often citing fear. The dependent variable, barriers to screening, was grouped into major categories. When sociodemographic factors were controlled for, the effect of ethnicity disappeared. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that women with a source of health care were less likely to cite any logistical barriers, but significantly more likely to report only personal barriers (such as fear or descuido). The analysis indicated that personal barriers were very prevalent in the communities studied. It may not be sufficient merely to increase access to breast cancer screening services for low-income Latinas: even when women have a source of health care, personal barriers may prevent many women from seeking screening. Outreach programs need to be tailored to the target communities as there are significant differences among groups of Latinas. Targeted outreach programs must work in tandem with programs to increase access to ensure that both personal and logistical barriers to screening are addressed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Breast Self-Examination / psychology
  • Breast Self-Examination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dominican Republic / ethnology
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Hispanic Americans / education
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health
  • Women's Health