Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Peggy Walker

Abstract

Purpose: Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latina women, with BRCA1/2 gene mutations accounting for a commensurate proportion of breast/ovarian cancer in Latina women as compared to non-Latina women. Despite this statistic, it has been shown that Latino populations exhibit low awareness and use of genetic services and that they hold culturally-related beliefs which stigmatize cancer. We hypothesized that a simple, culturally-tailored educational flier would improve genetics knowledge as well as decrease breast cancer-related stigma among Latina women in our sample. Method: Two groups of Latina women (N = 19) were provided with a pre-survey, educational flier, and then post-survey to assess their knowledge of breast cancer-related genetics and their emotional status. Qualitative responses regarding cancer-related perceptions were also gathered post-flier. Participants included women both affected and unaffected by breast cancer and were surveyed from either a Spanish-language breast cancer support group in Orlando, FL or a Hispanic community health education seminar in Charleston, SC. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was employed to analyze pre- and post-flier results. The Repeated Measures ANOVA was used to assess emotional status as a function of cancer diagnosis. Qualitative data was coded and analyzed using grounded theory methods. Results: None of the women showed significant gains in knowledge related to breast cancer after viewing the educational flier. All women demonstrated significant increases in anxiety between baseline emotional status and emotional status related to either a real or hypothetical diagnosis of cancer.

participants showed higher anxiety means overall. Qualitative analysis identified four major themes: (1) cancer means fear, death, and family isolation; (2) cancer is difficult to explain; (3) perceived causes of cancer; and (4) attitudes of hope. Conclusions: We showed that either a real or hypothetical diagnosis of breast cancer increases anxiety above that of baseline emotional status among our sample population of Latina women who attend health-focused support groups. We theorize that a refined version of the flier may be more effective as part of a larger educational platform, in which participants are provided with expanded information and encouraged to participate in cancer and genetics-centered conversation. We hope future research endeavors will build upon the utility of effective educational materials to improve genetic counseling referrals and genetic-medicine healthcare among this growing population.

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