Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Knowledge, Beliefs and Feelings about Breast Cancer: The Perspective of African American Women

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Knowledge, Beliefs and Feelings about Breast Cancer: The Perspective of African American Women

Article excerpt

Abstract: A naturalistic qualitative research study was conducted focusing on young African American women with breast cancer and their biological mothers. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 participants to identify their knowledge, beliefs and feelings of breast cancer. Several women reported issues of medical distrust; limited treatment options; breast cancer is a death warrant. Social support was essential for survival. Implications of the research for nursing education and the medical profession are discussed.

Key Words: Breast Cancer, African American, Knowledge, Beliefs, Feelings, Qualitative Research

Breast Cancer is a common cancer occurring among women. Although breast cancer incidence occurs at a higher rate in Caucasian women, African American women have a higher mortality rate (American Cancer Society, 2008). More than 10% of breast cancers in African American women occur before the age of 40 years as compared to 5% for Caucasian women (Johnson, 2002). Breast cancer in young African American women tends to be more aggressive and to be an advanced disease at diagnosis. This is a result of the lack of appropriate screening tools and insufficient education about the disease that exist among young African American women and the medical community. The medical profession believes that if a young patient does not have all the risk factors associated with breast cancer, she is unlikely to have the disease (Swanson, Haslam, & Azzouz, 2003). For that reason, young African American women in particular are less likely to be recommended by a physician to have breast cancer screening, therefore decreasing the likelihood of detecting a tumor at its earliest stage so women can benefit from the best treatment available.

The Study

The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of breast and breast cancer from the perspective of young women of African descent and their biological mothers.


A naturalistic inquiry design was the type of qualitative research approach used and 14 African American women were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. The data were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis.


The participants in this study were African American women who developed breast cancer at a young age and their biological mothers. It was important to talk to young African American women between the ages of 20 and 40 years who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had a living biological mother with or without breast cancer who actually lived the experience that was being explored. Basically, these participants were information rich. Additional inclusive criteria were: (1) that the individual had survived the disease one year or more regardless of the type, stage, and treatment; (2) had completed treatment; (3) and self-identified as a woman of African descent with a desire to discuss her experience. These preferences were put in place so that the individuals would be stabilized medically and free from any discomfort that might occur as a result of cancer care. Additionally, participants were asked to provide demographic information, which included age, ancestry, income, marital status, family history of breast cancer, the number of children including gender and age. The participants were selected using a purposive sampling method and network technique. The participants chose the time and place of the actual interview. In 13 of the cases, the interviews were conducted face to face in the natural settings of the participants' own homes. In one case, the interview was conducted by telephone as the participant lived a distance from the researcher. There were no controls or constraints placed on the participants. The researcher did not determine the number of participants in advance. Instead, the final number of mothers and daughters recruited was determined by data-saturation in other words information redundancy which meant that the researcher had done an extensive exploration of the experience being studied and discovered no new information. …

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