Breast cancer screening beliefs and barriers among college-aged women
The purpose of this research study was to examine breast cancer screening behavior and knowledge among college women attending a north Texas university, with particular emphasis on disparities between Caucasian and African American women. Worldwide, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. In 2013, the American Cancer Society estimated about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed in women for 2013 (ACS, 2013a). African American women under age 45 have a higher incidence of breast cancer and are also more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of breast cancer and with larger tumors (Susan G. Komen, 2013). The perceived risk of breast cancer is not emphasized as much in younger women compared to women over age 40. Moreover, since breast cancer is not perceived as a significant risk in younger women, screening methods such as breast self-examination (BSE) are not incorporated in this population until later in life.
A mixed methods approach was used in this descriptive study using a non-random convenience sample of 508 female participants aged 18-39 attending a north Texas university. Participants completed a modified version of a breast cancer screening questionnaire that assessed breast cancer knowledge, screening barriers and beliefs. The questionnaire was developed by Dr. Victoria Champion based on constructs of the Health Belief Model (HBM) (Champion, 1999). A series of regressions and ANOVAs were conducted to determine the effect of breast cancer susceptibility, breast cancer seriousness, benefits of BSE, barriers of BSE, confidence in performing BSE, health motivation, and overall breast cancer knowledge. Models predicting susceptibility, seriousness, barriers, confidence, health motivation, and knowledge scores were significant. The only non-significant regression model was the model predicting benefits scores. Qualitative responses included themes of a most influential person regarding health behaviors and practices, and cultural or environmental beliefs regarding breast cancer and BSE.
This study shows evidence of the need for breast cancer screening intervention programs in collegiate environments. Educating younger women aged 18-39 can have a positive impact on changing behaviors and making better strides to emphasize the importance of breast cancer screening. By educating college women before they reach screening age, women aged 18-39 will have a better understanding of their needs, and the questions to ask that will increase their likelihood of being screened through mammography beginning at age 40.