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Beliefs Matter: Cultural Beliefs and the Use of Cervical Cancer-Screening Tests

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Abstract

In this article we examine the influence of cultural beliefs on behavior or, more specifically, beliefs about cervical cancer risk factors and the use of Pap exams. Individual Latinas' (Hispanic women) holding of beliefs similar to Latinas' generally (cultural consonance) did not significantly influence their use of Pap exams. Rather, structural factors such as medical insurance, age, marital status, education, and language acculturation explained Latinas' use of this medical service. However, when Latinas held beliefs similar to those of Anglo women, then they were significantly more likely to have had a Pap exam within the past two years. Latinas whose beliefs were closer to those of physicians were significantly less likely to have had the exam recently. Arriving at these findings involved both ethnographic interviews and survey research. That these beliefs proved to be significant influences on behavior suggests not only the important ways that beliefs matter but that ethnographic methods for examining those beliefs also matter. [Latinas and cervical cancer, Pap exams, culture and behavior, ethnography and survey research]

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