Cancer knowledge, self-efficacy, and cancer screening behaviors among Mexican-American women

J Cancer Educ. Winter 1995;10(4):217-22. doi: 10.1080/08858199509528377.


Latina women are at significantly greater risk of death from cancer than Anglo women in the United States. Reasons for this include a lack of knowledge regarding cancer, lack of access to cancer screening services, and feelings of fatalism. This study was designed to determine the relationship between cancer knowledge and cancer screening self-efficacy in this population. One hundred twelve Mexican-American women living in southern Texas were surveyed regarding their self-efficacy toward engaging in age-appropriate cancer screening activities. Each subject answered questions related to knowledge and self-efficacy in four topical areas; general cancer knowledge, cervical cancer and Pap smears, breast cancer and breast self-examination (BSE), and colorectal cancer and sigmoidoscopy. A majority of the responders had significant misconceptions related to cancer causation, symptoms, and treatment and expressed feelings of little control over prevention of the disease. Only a minority felt that they could undergo the appropriate screenings, even if they were available. There were strong relationships between all of the knowledge variables examined, and between knowledge and self-efficacy related to BSE and colorectal cancer screening. Strong relationships were not found for the areas of Pap smears and general cancer knowledge. The results suggest that increased knowledge is associated with increased self-efficacy for cancer screening.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Mass Screening* / psychology
  • Mass Screening* / statistics & numerical data
  • Mexican Americans* / psychology
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas
  • Women* / education
  • Women* / psychology