Barriers to Cancer Screening in Mexican-American Women

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To test the simultaneous effect of various established predictors of breast and cervical cancer screening (breast self-examination, clinical breast examination by a physician, Papanicolaou [Pap] smear, and pelvic examination) in a low-income, Mexican-American sample.

Material and Methods

A total of 188 Mexican-American women participated in a face-to-face structured interview in their preferred language. We tested a model with four established predictors of breast and cervical cancer screening-communication skills, knowledge of cancer, access to health care (finances and availability of care), and anxiety about cancer. Simultaneous structural equations analysis was used to form latent variables and to control for the effect of all predictors concurrently.


Screening behavior was inversely associated with anxiety about cancer when all other predictors were statistically controlled. In addition, anxiety substantially affected the relationship between communication skills and screening behavior. Unexpectedly, knowledge of cancer was positively, rather than negatively, associated with anxiety about cancer. Predictors in the model demonstrated an excellent fit of the proposed model to the data.


Successful cancer screening programs for Mexican-American women must address not only access barriers but also communication skills, knowledge, and, perhaps most importantly, anxiety.

Mayo Clin Proc 1998;73


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