Santana VanDyke

Mentor: Madelynn Shell, PhD

Institution: UVa-Wise

Current Status: Graduated UVa-Wise 2014

Presentations: Southeastern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN

National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Lexington, KY

COPLAC Southeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference, Montevallo, AL

UVa-Wise, Emory & Henry Undergraduate Research Symposium, Wise, VA

UVa-Wise College Board, May 2014

Motivating Factors in the Decision to Receive Breast Cancer

Despite increased treatment options, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death for women in the United States (Lustria et al., 2010). Although mammography and breast self-examinations can lead to early diagnosis of and better prognosis for breast cancer, many women do not adopt these preventative practices. Women in rural areas in particular are far less likely to receive mammograms (Lustria et al., 2010). These findings are often attributed to cognitive or behavioral barriers, such as inaccurate assessments of breast cancer risk, insufficient knowledge of cancer treatments and survivability, and lack of health insurance (Lustria et al., 2010). This study focused on women in rural Appalachia, an underserved region where many women do not have health insurance and thus often do not have access to preventative healthcare. This area suffers from a health profession shortage, which makes access to primary healthcare difficult for these women (Huttlinger, Schaller-Ayers, & Lawson, 2004). Due to a lack of health insurance, individuals in rural Appalachia often delay seeking health care and do not receive preventative screenings, such as mammograms, as recommended (Huttlinger et al., 2004).
         A number of factors may affect women’s decisions to seek breast cancer screenings, and these factors may be particularly important for women in rural areas.  First, general health attitudes may be related to breast cancer frequency. Research suggests that beliefs about general health behavior and the effectiveness of breast cancer screenings may help predict the frequency of mammograms (Lauver, Henriques, Settersten, & Bumann, 2003). However, this research did not focus on women in rural areas. Second, women in rural areas often do not have health insurance and often do not receive primary health care. As a result, these women may develop distorted views about health risks and preventative screenings. Research indicates that women with health insurance are more likely to have had a health check-up within the past two years and are more likely to have received a recent breast cancer screening (Carney et al., 2012). These findings suggest that although health insurance is related to mammography frequency, there may be a link between general health behaviors and breast cancer screenings, as well.
         Many women in rural Appalachia find healthcare to be inaccessible due to a lack of health insurance. Due to poor access to healthcare, women in rural Appalachia may have developed negative attitudes regarding breast cancer screenings and may have a distorted view of their perceived risk for breast cancer. Poor access to healthcare may also lead to negative health behaviors, such as not receiving regular health check-ups. As a result, women in rural areas may not receive accurate information regarding breast cancer screenings, which may lead to inaccurate perceptions of mammograms. Due these misperceptions, these women may then develop negative attitudes about mammograms, which may deter them from receiving breast cancer screenings. Therefore, attitudes about breast cancer screenings may be directly related to mammogram frequency.
          This study explored two questions. (1) This study explored whether general health behaviors and attitudes about breast cancer screening predict the frequency of mammograms among women in rural Appalachia. (2) This study explored how health insurance impacts attitudes about breast cancer risk and preventative care behaviors for women in rural Appalachia.