Women's opinions about attending for breast cancer screening: stability of cognitive determinants during three rounds of screening

Br J Health Psychol. 2005 Feb;10(Pt 1):133-49. doi: 10.1348/135910704X14645.


Objectives: To examine the stability of beliefs and intentions towards repeat attendance at breast cancer screening, using the Theory of Planned Behaviour. The aims of the study were to examine whether and how cognitions changed in the course of the programme, and whether intentions that were assessed proximally were better predictors of behaviour than those assessed distally.

Design and methods: A total of 2,657 women filled out a baseline questionnaire (T(1)), 2 months after being invited for an initial mammogram in the Dutch Breast Cancer Screening Programme. Actual attendance data in the second and third screening rounds were subsequently collected and follow-up questionnaires were sent to parts of the sample at four points in time: shortly before (T(2)) and after (T(3)) the second screening round, and shortly before (T(4)) and after (T(5)) the third screening round.

Results: Only minor changes in beliefs and intentions were found. In the assessments shortly before screening, women were somewhat less positive about attending than in the assessments shortly after screening. Throughout the course of the programme, women's opinions about attending remained positive. In fact, women became somewhat more convinced that they were vulnerable to getting breast cancer, and that participating in screening was beneficial to them. Actual attendance in subsequent rounds of screening was higher than expected. Proximal beliefs and intentions were only slightly more predictive of actual behaviour than distal beliefs.

Conclusions: In organized breast cancer screening, beliefs and intentions remain positive and rather stable. Although our results should be interpreted with caution, due to little variation in behaviour, they suggest that the gap between intentions and behaviour could not be substantially reduced by proximal assessment of determinants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires