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

Abstract

BACKGROUND

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.

OBJECTIVE

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

DESIGN

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

PARTICIPANTS

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

APPROACH

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

RESULTS

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by an NIEHS/NCI Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities grant P50-ES12382 and by a grant from the American Cancer Society Illinois Division PSB-05-08. Results of this study were presented in part at the Annual Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine in Toronto, ON, in April 2007.

Conflict of Interest

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Correspondence to Christopher M. Masi MD, PhD.

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Masi, C.M., Gehlert, S. Perceptions of Breast Cancer Treatment among African-American Women and Men: Implications for Interventions. J GEN INTERN MED 24, 408–414 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-008-0868-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-008-0868-6

KEY WORDS

  • breast cancer
  • treatment
  • African-American
  • qualitative research
  • interventions