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Breast health information needs of women from minority ethnic groups


  • Tessa Watts BA MSc PGCE RGN,

  • Joy Merrell BSc MSc PhD RGN RHV,

  • Fiona Murphy BN MSc PGCE RGN HV NDN RCNT,

  • Angela Williams BN MSc PGCE RGN

Tessa Watts,
School of Health Science,
University of Wales Swansea,
Singleton Park,
Swansea SA2 8PP,


Background.  For women from minority ethnic groups to make informed decisions about their health, and particularly about whether to participate in breast cancer screening programmes, access to a range of appropriately designed high quality, culturally-specific and sensitive health information is needed.

Aims.  Through a critical review of the literature, this paper aims to determine the breast health and breast cancer screening information needs of women from minority ethnic groups and to discuss the implications of cultural difference for nurses in relation to the development and dissemination of health information.

Methods.  A critical review of the research literature published in English between 1996 and 2002 was conducted. Electronic and the relevant Cochrane Collaboration databases were searched using a range of search terms to retrieve literature specifically relevant to the aims of the review. The use of personal contacts and posting a request for information on the mailing list at facilitated the retrieval of grey literature. All references retrieved were entered on a bibliographic database. The title and abstract of each was examined to assess it for inclusion in the review.

Findings.  There was little published information about specific breast cancer screening information needs from the perspective of women from minority ethnic groups. In comparison with the indigenous population, the information needs of people from minority ethnic groups differ in relation to their cultural beliefs and values and the effects of these on health care practices. Inadequate knowledge about breast health and breast cancer screening may be a consequence of the provision of insufficient or culturally inappropriate information.

Conclusions.  There is a dearth of research highlighting breast health and breast cancer screening information needs of women from minority ethnic groups. In providing information, their needs appear to have been an ‘add on’. Health care professionals’ lack of understanding about cultural beliefs, values and knowledge, together with racial stereotyping and misconceptions about cancer in minority ethnic groups, pose challenges to information dissemination. Health care professionals need to work collaboratively with women from minority ethnic groups, identifying culturally-specific beliefs and values about breast cancer, breast cancer risk and screening, in order to develop appropriate and acceptable information and dissemination strategies.

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