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Talking Circles: Northern Plains Tribes American Indian Women's Views of Cancer as a Health Issue


  • Sara A. Becker, Ph.D. (cand.), R.N., C, Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University, College of Nursing, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Ph.D. (cand.), University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska. Dyanne D. Affonso, Ph.D., R.N., Affiliate Professor, College of Nursing, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii. Madonna Blue Horse Beard, M.S., R.N. (deceased), Native American Faculty Advisor/Recruiter, South Dakota State University, College of Nursing, Rapid City, South Dakota.

* Sara A. Becker, South Dakota State University College of Nursing, 1011 11th Street, Rapid City, SD 57701. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: The purpose of this research was to understand the cultural meanings of cancer among American Indian women from Northern Plains tribes living in western South Dakota and their experiential view of breast and cervical cancer screening. Design and Sample: Using an exploratory design, a purposive sample of 28 women, 35–75 years of age, were recruited into three Talking Circles. Measurement: Talking Circle and focus group methodology, combined with Affonso's Focus Groups Analytic Schema, were used to generate contextual data sets including thematic findings. Results: Ten themes emerged indicating interrelationships between cultural traditions and health structures of care. The themes provided a unique perspective for conceptualizing women's experiences with breast and cervical cancer screening. Conclusions: Incorporating women's cultural experiences into screening services is necessary to address clinical and policy challenges for reducing breast and cervical cancer mortality among American Indian women. Findings from this research will be used to guide a future study investigating breast-screening patterns related to mammography adherence and development of interventions specific to American Indian women.