The effects of health beliefs on screening mammography utilization among a diverse sample of older women

Women Health. 1996;24(3):77-94. doi: 10.1300/j013v24n03_05.


Screening mammography is particularly effective in detecting breast cancer in elderly women. Yet, although half of all breast cancers are diagnosed in older women, statistics show that women aged 65 and over tend to underutilize screening mammography. Prior research has used the constructs of the Health Belief Model to explore attitudes and beliefs relative to breast cancer screening. Prior studies have also identified health beliefs and concerns relative to screening mammography and race/ethnicity as some of the patient-related predictors of screening mammography utilization among younger women. This study uses the theoretical framework of the Health Belief Model to explore the effects of these variables on utilization in a multiracial, multiethnic, random sample of 1011 women, aged 65 and over. Race/ethnicity, belief that mammograms detect cancer, ease the mind, and provide accurate results; concern over the radiation, pain, and cost associated with receiving a mammogram; and other independent variables were tested as predictors of screening mammography utilization. Regression analysis identified that the belief that having a mammogram eases recipients minds was the most significant predictor of screening mammography utilization. None of the other health beliefs or health concerns were significant predictors. Race/ethnicity had no direct effects on utilization nor was it a confounder in the relationship between health beliefs, concerns and utilization. These results indicate that, along with emphasizing the importance of mammograms in early detection of breast cancer, stressing the reassurance that mammography brings recipients may be an effective health education strategy for elderly women of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health* / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammography / psychology*
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States