BACKGROUND: Somali women are infrequently screened for breast or cervical cancer, and there is a paucity of evidence-based interventions to increase cancer screening in this community. In order to create a culturally relevant intervention for Somali women living in Minnesota, we sought to understand what Somali immigrant women know about breast and cervical cancer, what are the attitudes toward screening and what cultural barriers are there to screen as well as cultural factors that would facilitate screening.
METHODS: In partnership with a community-based organization, New American Community Services (NACS), focus groups were conducted to explore the issues described above. Two focus groups were held with younger women age 20 to 35 and two were held with women age 36 to 65.
RESULTS: Twenty-nine women participated in the four focus groups. The women identified 1) differences in health care seeking behavior in Somalia verses the United States; 2) cultural understanding of cancer and disease; 3) barriers to mammogram or Pap screening; 4) facilitators to seeking preventive cancer screening; and 5) risk factors for developing cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: Cultural misperceptions and attitudes need to be addressed in developing culturally-appropriate interventions to improve screening uptake for Somali women. A nuanced response is required to address barriers specific to younger and older groups. Culturally informed beliefs can be integrated into intervention development, preventive care and screening promotion.