Breast cancer detection practices of south Asian women: knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs

Oncol Nurs Forum. Nov-Dec 1998;25(10):1693-701.


Purpose/objectives: To explore knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding breast cancer detection practices among South Asian women.

Design: Descriptive exploratory design.

Setting: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sample: 57 South Asian women, age 40 and over, who are first generation immigrants from India and Pakistan and speak one of the four languages identified for the study--Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, or Urdu.

Methods: An interview guide was designed specifically for this study. It contained questions regarding knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices about breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination (CBE), and mammogram. In addition, questions assessing the variables of the Health Belief Model and health motivations also were included. The data were obtained during face-to-face interviews in the primary language of the participating woman. The interviews were transcribed and translated into English.

Findings: 12% of the participants practiced BSE monthly, 49% had undergone at least one CBE during their lives, and 47% had never had a mammogram. The majority (54%) said they did not know very much about breast cancer. While 21% of the women said detecting cancer early was important, only 5% reported that cancer could be cured. Age, education, or mother tongue showed no statistically significant relationship with the breast health practice scores. However, proficiency with the English language (p = 0.009) and number of years in Canada (p = 0.009) had a significant relationship with the breast health practice scores. The significant explanatory factor for the variable breast health practices was a cue to action (p = 0.009).

Conclusions: South Asian women with minimal knowledge of breast cancer did not engage in breast cancer detection practices.

Implications for nursing practice: This segment of the population of immigrant women needs to be better informed about breast cancer and the benefits of breast cancer detection practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Breast Self-Examination*
  • Canada
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Mammography*
  • Middle Aged