Increasing our understanding of breast self-examination: women talk about cancer, the health care system, and being women

Qual Health Res. 2006 Jul;16(6):802-20. doi: 10.1177/1049732306287537.


The author engaged 13 women, aged 30 to 59, in a collaborative research project over several months to explore the meaning of breast self-examination (BSE) to them. Through a series of 11 group discussions, the women developed a critical consciousness of the commonality of their personal experiences in relation to BSE. Although these women valued BSE, their reluctance to perform it was influenced by their perceptions of breast cancer as a lethal disease, the perceived threat it posed to their femininity, and their ability to negotiate an increasingly medical and technological health care system. This study provides insight into the importance of the social environment and shared understandings in influencing women's individual behavioral choices for BSE. It also illustrates the particular value of collaborative health research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Self-Examination / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Environment