Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine Mexican American knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about colorectal cancer and barriers to receiving colorectal cancer screening exams.
Design: We developed an open-topic focus group schedule that addressed knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about screening for colorectal cancer and identified cultural issues to be considered when developing educational interventions to increase screening participation. Focus groups were used to elicit participant responses.
Setting: Two small communities (colonias) along the US-Mexico border.
Subjects: Mexican Americans ages > or = 50 years.
Results: A total of 43 individuals (20 men and 23 women) participated in the focus groups, each of which lasted approximately 90 minutes. Few focus group participants had ever heard of colorectal cancer or specific screening exams to detect early forms of cancer. Participants identified cost of medical care and embarrassment about receiving colorectal exams as barriers to screening participation. Respondents commonly expressed fatalistic attitudes about their chances of recovering from cancer, some preferred not to know if they had cancer or believed that they would refuse treatment if diagnosed with cancer. Nevertheless, many participants noted that strong support from family and friends or a strong will would allow one to survive cancer.
Conclusion: Interventions to improve participation in screening services for colorectal cancer should focus on reducing the influences of cost and embarrassment and improving levels of knowledge about colorectal cancer and the need for screening.