Cancer screening behaviors of low-income women: the impact of race

Womens Health. Fall-Winter 1997;3(3-4):203-26.


Cancer mortality rates are greater for African Americans than for whites. Reasons for this are due in part to the disproportionate number of the poor who are African American. Of particular concern are breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer, as screening exams, when used regularly, can reduce mortality. As part of an National Cancer Institute-funded study to improve breast and cervical cancer screening among low-income, predominately African American women, a survey was done to collect data on knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. A total of 300 women, African American and white residents of low-income housing communities, completed the survey. More African American women than white women had a mammogram within guidelines (52% vs. 40%), a clinical breast exam within the last year (60% vs. 56%), a Pap smear within the last 3 years (80% vs. 59%), and a Fecal Occult Blood Test within the last year (21% vs. 17%). Slightly more white women had a flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) exam within the last 5 years (31% vs. 24%). When adjusted for age differences in the two populations, the differences in receiving regular screening exams were not statistically significant. Variables related to receiving these tests for all women included receiving regular check-ups (breast cancer); beliefs (breast and colorectal cancer screening), and knowledge (cervical cancer). Among African American women, barriers to screening were important for breast screening and regular checkups were related to Pap smear screening (odds ratio [OR] = 13.9, p < .01). High perceived risk of colorectal cancer was related to recent FS only for white women (OR = 47.9, p = .012). Women in this homogenous income group had similar rates of screening and had similar barriers to receiving recommended screening tests; thus, interventions should address beliefs and knowledge of risk targeted to all low-income women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans* / psychology
  • African Americans* / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group* / psychology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sampling Studies
  • Women's Health*