Social-cognitive aspects of underserved Latinas preparing to undergo genetic cancer risk assessment for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer



Objectives: As Latinos are a growing ethnic group in the United States, it is important to understand the socio-cultural factors that may be associated with cancer screening and prevention in this population. The socio-cultural factors that may affect preparedness to undergo genetic cancer risk assessment (GCRA) deserve particular attention. The pre-GCRA period can provide insight into variables that may influence how medically underserved Latinas, with limited health resources and access, understand hereditary cancer information and subsequently implement cancer risk management recommendations. This study explores social, cognitive and cultural variables in Latinas prior to undergoing GCRA.

Methods: The study sample consisted of low-income, underserved Latinas referred for GCRA because of a personal and/or family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Acculturation, cancer-specific fatalism, self-efficacy and social support were assessed prior to GCRA.

Results: Fifty Latinas (mean age=40.1±7.7) completed instruments; 86% had invasive cancer, 78% spoke primarily Spanish and 61% were of Mexican ancestry. Low levels of acculturation (n=50, mean=9.0±5.8) and cancer-specific fatalism (n=43, mean=5.6±3.2), but relatively high self-efficacy (n=49, mean=40.9±7.8) and social support (n=49, mean=37.3±8.7) were reported. Cancer-specific fatalism and self-efficacy were inversely correlated (r=−0.47, p=0.002). Those over age 38 at the time of cancer diagnosis reported higher acculturation (mean=11.4±7.2, p=0.02) and social support (mean=40.5±1.2, p=0.05).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that medically underserved Latinas may already possess some of the necessary skills to successfully approach the GCRA process, but that special attention should be given to cultural factors. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.