Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 408–414

Perceptions of Breast Cancer Treatment among African-American Women and Men: Implications for Interventions

Populations at Risk

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0868-6

Cite this article as:
Masi, C.M. & Gehlert, S. J GEN INTERN MED (2009) 24: 408. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0868-6



While breast cancer mortality has declined in recent years, the mortality gap between African-American and white women continues to grow. Current strategies to reduce this disparity focus on logistical and information needs, but contextual factors, such as concerns about racism and treatment side effects, may also represent significant barriers to improved outcomes.


To characterize perceptions of breast cancer treatment among African-American women and men.


A qualitative study of African-American adults using focus group interviews.


Two hundred eighty women and 165 men who live in one of 15 contiguous neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side.


Transcripts were systematically analyzed using qualitative techniques to identify emergent themes related to breast cancer treatment.


The concerns expressed most frequently were mistrust of the medical establishment and federal government, the effect of racism and lack of health insurance on quality of care, the impact of treatment on intimate relationships, and the negative effects of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


In addition to providing logistical and information support, strategies to reduce the breast cancer mortality gap should also address contextual factors important to quality of care. Specific interventions are discussed, including strategies to enhance trust, reduce race-related treatment differences, minimize the impact of treatment on intimate relationships, and reduce negative perceptions of breast cancer surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


breast cancer treatment African-American qualitative research interventions 

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of General Internal MedicineUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities ResearchUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.School of Social Service AdministrationUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA