Rural Women Seek Breast Cancer Screenings for the Good of Their Families

March 4, 2011

New study finds that women from rural populations are motivated to seek breast cancer prevention screenings

KNOXVILLE, TN — A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs finds that women from rural populations are motivated to seek breast cancer prevention screenings primarily out of concern for the long-term well being of their families. The study shows that by appealing to their strength as caretakers doctors can encourage their rural patients to perform breast health self-examinations, get mammograms, and to talk with doctors about their breast health. In an effort to develop strategies for breast health awareness in rural populations researchers asked the question, “What message strategies will motivate Appalachian women to attend to breast health issues and become actively involved in their own breast health?” The Appalachian women described their daily lives and their personal responsibilities to others and themselves, “I need to be around for those I love” and “If I don’t take care of myself, no one else will." The current study was able to identify culturally relevant ways to encourage rural women to engage in breast health behaviors. Lead researcher Dr. Eric Haley, “Our research shows that facts and figures don’t motivate. Speaking to rural women in a way that recognizes their vital role in family and community motivates women to take control of their health. Regardless of how they are communicated, PSAs, brochures, video, web sites or person-to-person, breast health promotional messages must break through the clutter of all messages in the market.” Past research has shown that rural Appalachian women often feel alienated from healthcare systems and often don’t seek the preventative care they need in order to avoid disruptive, and even fatal, health conditions. Haley, “Other research has emphasized the fatalistic factor at play. Women may have failed to seek health care because in their view, it wouldn’t change their individual fates. However, this study found no such factor. In fact, the study showed these women to be strong and willing to take control if motivated to do so.” The research not only provides guidance for public health messages on breast health, but suggests how the messages may also encourage rural Appalachian women to seek other forms of health care. “Encouraging preventative care saves lives, and cuts medical costs, both private and public, and in fact save lives. The study has implications for public policy on rural health care initiatives,” Haley said.