Most Who Use Free Clinics for Breast Care Need More Information
Despite the importance for free clinics to promote breast health education to populations of women who may not get routine screenings or schedule regular check-ups, a recent study conducted at one such free clinic in the Intermountain West found that breast health information was limited. This was especially true among Spanish speakers and non-U.S. citizen English speakers.
Background and Goals
Given some women’s limited access to regular health care services, even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the study authors wished to investigate those seeking care at free clinics as a safety net. They wanted to gauge the level of knowledge and perceptions of breast health among people without insurance.
The study examined survey responses from 146 free clinic patients, women aged 40 and older. They were given a set of seven questions to assess their knowledge and perceptions of breast health.
The study found that non-U.S. citizen English speakers had the least amount of breast health knowledge. Spanish speakers and non-U.S. citizen English speakers had an overall negative perception of breast health, compared to U.S. citizen English speakers. Out of the 146 surveys, Spanish speakers had the highest average score when it came to breast health knowledge.
Overall the study found:
- non-U.S. citizen English speakers were more likely to agree with the statement, “Treatments for breast cancer are more helpful to young people” and “Treatment of breast cancer results in loss of physical beauty”
- Spanish speakers were more likely to agree with the statement, “Treatment for breast cancer is embarrassing”
- non-U.S. citizen English speakers were more likely to agree with “Breast cancer treatment is worse than cancer itself” and “If you have breast cancer, better not to know” than the U.S. citizen English speakers and the Spanish speakers
The percentage of participants who had a mammogram in the past 2 years was 4 percent higher than the average recorded by the CDC. However, the number of women who had them in the past year appeared low compared to previous studies.
As the study was limited to one free clinic in the United States, results cannot be applied universally to all free clinics, and is only representative of the population surveyed. Additionally, the survey did not account for cultural differences within non-U.S. citizen English speaker and Spanish speakers.
What This Means for You
If you or someone you know is recently diagnosed, under- or uninsured, and seeking treatment advice and options from a free clinic, be sure to ask volunteers and healthcare providers for programs, health fairs and literature in your spoken language, or with visuals, so you have the greatest amount of information possible. You may also consider asking about support groups that can help you with the perceptions you have about breast health and screening. Be sure to also reference the studies, news, and first-person stories right here on lbbc.org. Some clinic resources may also contain medical language that can be difficult to navigate – here’s a glossary that quickly defines some of the terms you may hear from breast health care providers.
Kamimura, A, Christensen, N, Mo, W, Ashby, J, Reel, J. Knowledge and Perceptions of Breast Health Among Free Clinic Patients. Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health (2014); dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.whi.2014.02.006