Awareness of and reactions to mammography controversy among immigrant women

Rebekah H Nagler, Jennifer A. Lueck, Lauren S. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: There is substantial expert disagreement about the use of mammography to screen for breast cancer, and this disagreement routinely plays out in the media. Evidence suggests that some women are aware of the controversy over mammography, but less is known about whether immigrant and other underserved women have heard about it and, if so, how they react to it. Objective: To explore immigrant women's awareness of and reactions to mammography controversy. Design: Community-engaged qualitative study: we conducted six focus groups with 53 women aged 35–55 from three immigrant communities (Somali, Latina and Hmong) in a major US metropolitan area. A grounded theory approach was used to identify themes; NVivo 10 was used to enhance analyses. Results: Several themes emerged: (i) low awareness of mammography controversy across groups, despite self-reported attention to health information; (ii) high intentions to be screened, even after being told about the controversy; (iii) few reported discussions of mammography's risks and benefits with clinicians; (iv) substantial interest in learning more about mammography and breast cancer, but some low self-efficacy to obtain such information; and (v) questions about whether health recommendations matter and what qualifies as evidence. Conclusion: Given on-going expert disagreement about mammography screening, it is important for clinicians to help women understand mammography's risks and benefits so they can make an informed choice. This is particularly critical for immigrant and other underserved women, who may be less able to access, attend to, process, retain and act on health information (a phenomenon known as communication inequality).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-647
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the following community researchers from the Somali, Latino and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness (SoLaHmo) for their assistance with development of research tools and data collection: Maira Rosas-Lee, MA; Naima Dhore; Mai See Thao, PhD Candidate; Mariam Egal, MPH; Xai Gao Sheng Chang; Laura Serrano; Maria Arboleda; Amran Ahmed, MN; Nira Ly, JD; Natalia Calixto; and Shannon Pergament, MPH, MSW. We also thank K. Vish Viswanath, PhD, Marco Yzer, PhD, Alexander Rothman, PhD, and John Finnegan, PhD for their helpful feedback during earlier stages of this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Health Expectations Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • awareness
  • community-engaged research
  • controversy
  • immigrant women
  • mammography


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