The Effects of Health Beliefs on Screening Mammography Utilization Among a Diverse Sample of Older Women

Published In: Women and Health, v. 24, no. 3, 1996, p. 77-94

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1995

by Laurine R Thomas, Sarah Fox, Barbara Leake, Richard G. Roetzheim

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Screening mammography is particularly effective in detecting breast cancer in elderly women, but women ages 65 and over tend to underutilize it. Prior research has used the constructs of the Health Belief Model to explore attitudes and beliefs relative to breast cancer screening 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 1,011 women, ages 65 and over. The authors tested 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 as predictors of screening mammograph utilization. In regression analysis, the belief that having a mammogram eases recipients' minds was the only significant predictor of screening mammography 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.

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