Journal of Community Health

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 153-165

First online:

How sources of health information relate to knowledge and use of cancer screening exams

  • Helen I. MeissnerAffiliated withPublic Health Applications Research Branch, National Cancer Institute
  • , Arnold L. Potosky
  • , Rena Convissor

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Utilization of many screening procedures to detect cancer in early stages remains low. In order to design more effective strategies to increase utilization of these tests, we assessed the role and relative importance of different information sources on knowledge and use of cancer screening exams. Where individuals get useful information about disease prevention, and the relationship of information sources to cancer screening knowledge and behavior are reported using data from the 1987 National Health Interview Survey. Results indicate that physicians are perceived as important sources of information on how to prevent illness. However, persons who use print media as their most useful source of information are significantly more likely to have heard of cancer screening procedures than those who rely on the doctor as the source. Those who rely on electronic media tend to be less knowledgeable of all screening procedures examined. A strong and consistent association between doctor as the most useful source of information and actually having received the procedure was found. These results suggest that knowledge may not necessarily be a prerequisite to screening and indicate that reliance on the physician to recommend cancer screening may be critical in utilization of these services.