Breast cancer knowledge, beliefs, and screening behaviors of college women: utilization of the health belief model

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University of Alabama Libraries

Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is currently considered the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. It is unique from other cancers in that it presents extreme financial costs, coupled with both physiological and psychological consequences for the impacted women and their families. Lifestyle factors are known contributors to rates of breast cancer, and knowledge is essential to its prevention. Women who are classified as "emerging adults" offer a vital window of opportunity for intervention, as lifestyle patterns are often set during this time. This cross-sectional, descriptive study examined the level of breast cancer knowledge, beliefs, and screening behaviors among a sample of emerging adult college women (n = 342) in the southeastern U.S. by measuring participants' confidence, health motivation, perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, and perceived barriers, in addition to their degree of worry in relation to breast cancer. Participants responded to a written, self-report 86-item questionnaire. All analyses were conducted using SAS® 9.0. Results of the study showed participants had a low level of perceived susceptibility towards breast cancer, as well as relatively low overall breast cancer knowledge. Findings also revealed a significant association between ethnicity, year in school, and family history of breast cancer and participants' general degree of breast cancer-related worry. Of the Health Belief Model constructs, confidence and perceived barriers were found to significantly predict breast self-examination. The college years provide a great opportunity for health intervention strategies. Health program planners should aim to develop interventions that are adapted to address the unique needs of women who are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. These interventions should center on enhancing self-efficacy of breast cancer screening and reducing barriers. Education-based programs are also needed to increase women's overall knowledge and awareness of breast cancer-related issues. Such strategies have great potential to enhance women's quality of life and positively influence those with whom they closely interact.

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Health sciences