Effects of exposure to media messages about limiting breast cancer screening: A qualitative experimental study

Hamdi Abdi, Rebekah H. Nagler, Erika Franklin Fowler, Sarah E. Gollust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Examine how women aged 35–50 respond to messages about limiting cancer screening. Methods: A national sample of women aged 35–50 (n = 983) were randomly assigned to read one of four media vignettes: three provided information about potential harms of mammograms using evidence, norms, or an anecdote strategy, and one provided no such information. Participants listed thoughts they had about the message, and after coding these themes, we tested for associations between the themes evoked, message exposure, and mammogram history. Results: Thematic categories included emotions (8 %); behavioral intentions (14 %); and cognitions, attitudes, and beliefs (67 %). Pro-screening attitudes, questioning, and cues to get screened were most prevalent. The anecdote message often elicited pro-screening attitudes, while the evidence message often elicited negative emotions and anger, as well as questioning or skeptical responses. Those with a history of mammograms expressed more pro-screening attitudes and disagreed with the message more often. Conclusions: Media messaging about guideline-supported care, especially when it involves reducing a clinical service that is routine and valued by patients, may evoke counterarguing, skepticism, and other negative responses. Practice implications: Clinicians should recognize the role of the media in potentially shaping women's attitudes, beliefs, and intentions when it comes to breast cancer screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107988
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Breast cancer screening
  • Media messaging
  • Overdiagnosis

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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