The purpose of this study was to describe perceptions of cancer risk, cause, and needs in participants from a low socioeconomic background at risk for hereditary cancer. We surveyed 307 individuals with the Cancer Awareness and Needs survey and received 128 responses (41.6% response rate). Family history, genetics, and tobacco use were selected most frequently as a cause of cancer; 36% (n = 46) selected fate and/or God's will. A total of 87.5% (n = 112) understood that having a close family member with breast cancer could increase personal risk; however responses were varied when asked if this was related to risk for other cancers. Most participants had undergone cancer screening, half reported undergoing breast magnetic resonance imaging, which was associated with personal (p < 0.01) and family cancer history (p = 0.03). An additional 76.6% (n = 98) felt informed about cancer screening and most received information from health care providers and family or friends. Ensuring that patients and clinicians are educated about hereditary cancer risk, detection, and prevention should be priorities for future research.
Keywords: cancer risk perceptions; cancer screening; health disparities; hereditary cancer risk.