The cancer screening project for women: experiences of women who partner with women and women who partner with men

Women Health. 2003;38(2):19-33. doi: 10.1300/J013v38n02_02.


The Cancer Screening Project for Women is a study about the experiences of legally unmarried women with breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening. During the initial phase of the study, we conducted focus groups to explore factors that influence unmarried women's decisions about cancer screenings. Women were invited to attend one of four group discussions: (1) never married women who either partner with women (WPW) or with both women and men (WPWM), (2) previously married women who now partner either with women (WPW) or with both women and men (WPWM), (3) never married women who partner with men (WPM), and (4) previously married women who partner with men (WPM). Twenty-eight women attended the focus groups, 14 WPW and 14 WPM. Several barriers to screening were consistent across the groups and included lack of acknowledgement and validation in medical settings, administrative barriers, pain, and concerns about body image. WPW specifically discussed fears about discrimination if and when they acknowledge their sexual orientation. WPW also described how women who express their gender androgynously are more likely to avoid health care facilities. Further studies are needed to determine if the themes we identified are consistent among larger samples of unmarried women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Heterosexuality / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / classification
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Single Person / psychology
  • United States
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health