Ethnic Differences in Social Support After Initial Receipt of an Abnormal Mammogram

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Abstract

Objectives: We examine access to and type of social support after initial receipt of an abnormal mammogram across non-Latina White (NLW), African American, and Latina women. Method: This cross-sectional study used a mixed method design, with quantitative and qualitative measures. Women were recruited through 2 community advocates and 3 breast-health-related care organizations. Results: With regard to access, African American women were less likely to access social support relative to NLW counterparts. Similar nonsignificant differences were found for Latinas. Women did not discuss results with family and friends to avoid burdening social networks and negative reactions. Networks’ geographic constraints and medical mistrust influenced Latina and African American women’s decisions to discuss results. With regard to type of social support, women reported emotional support across ethnicity. Latina and African American women reported more instrumental support, whereas NLW women reported more informational support in the context of their well-being. Conclusions: There are shared and culturally unique aspects of women’s experiences with social support after initially receiving an abnormal mammogram. Latina and African American women may particularly benefit from informational support from health care professionals. Communitywide efforts to mitigate mistrust and encourage active communication about cancer may improve ethnic disparities in emotional well-being and diagnostic resolution during initial receipt of an abnormal mammogram.

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