Social support and cancer screening in African American, Hispanic, and Native American women.



PURPOSE: Minority women have higher rates of mortality from breast and cervical cancers and lower rates of utilization of screening tests than white women. Innovative ways to increase screening in these populations are needed urgently. This report examines the effectiveness of screening interventions based on social support for breast and cervical cancers in African American, Hispanic, and Native American women. OVERVIEW: Despite the availability of mammography, clinical breast examination, and Papanicolaou smears, many women do not follow recommendations to obtain these tests. Further, many of the traditional approaches to health education have not been effective in minority populations. Additional strategies to promote screening for breast and cervical cancers are needed, particularly for women who, by virtue of language and/or culture, are outside the mainstream. Nontraditional approaches, or social support interventions, may be particularly effective in promoting cancer screening and reducing cancer mortality in high-risk minority women. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Programs that use social support offer the potential to draw on the strengths of a population--the ties between individuals, the importance of the family, and traditional cultural values--to improve screening for breast and cervical cancers in minority groups. In developing a social support intervention, healthcare providers should consider the similarities and differences among populations; collaborate with representatives of the target community; incorporate social support within hospitals and clinics; and include social support as an essential component of the clinical encounter.