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Why do women of Mexican descent feel so healthy?

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Why are women of Mexican descent at high risk for breast cancer?

What are the risk factors?

How do traditional values and beliefs affect their use of prevention screening for breast cancer?

Why do so many women feel uncomfortable performing the BSE or having a medical checkup?



One study has found that women of Mexican descent ¡°generally perceive that there is no reason to participate in breast cancer screening when they are feeling healthy¡± (Borrayo 815).

For a symptomatic woman, ¡°screening presents the risk of losing their internal sense of feeling healthy¡± (Borrayo 815). Feeling healthy is a ¡°subjective feeling of well being and cognitive perception¡± that they are not susceptible to breast cancer (Borrayo 815). Women judge their level of vulnerability according to cultural health beliefs about the development of breast cancer.

Whether a woman believes she is at risk for breast cancer or not is moderated by her overall knowledge of breast cancer, level of education, and acculturation (Borrayo 816). Women of Mexican descent with traditional beliefs think of breast cancer as a ¡°symptomatic, fatal, and shameful illness¡± (Borrayo 819).


illustration of breast cancer


Breast cancer is a symptomatic illness, is the most ¡°influential belief among women across the acculturation and SES spectrum¡± because women believe that they must feel a symptom to be ill (Borrayo 819).Women who believe that breast cancer is symptomatic wait until they think they have a breast cancer symptom to have detection procedures done. Women who think they have symptom of breast cancer will utilize detection procedures to prevent or avoid death not breast cancer because they believe breast cancer is fatal (Borrayo 819).

Fatal illness means that cancer eventually brings about one¡¯s death. Women may not engage in prevention screening because they don¡¯t want to get diagnosed with a fatal illness and if women develop breast cancer they are likely to avoid treatment because they think it is futile, since cancer eventually brings about one¡¯s death (Borrayo 820).

Breast cancer is also a shameful illness. Breast cancer is believed to bring shame and dishonor to one and one¡¯s family so in many cases women with traditional beliefs avoid diagnosis because they don¡¯t want to be shamed. The idea of breast cancer as a shameful illness is a very strong belief in both traditional and non traditional women of Mexican descent (Borrayo 820).

Women of Mexican descent aren't utilizing prevention screening unless they have a family history of breast cancer in many cases because this is how they determine whether they have breast cancer or not. For women of Mexican descent with a family history, prevention screening guarantees their sense of feeling healthy. However, women of Mexican descent without a family history aren't utilizing prevention services are a regular basis because they feel that using screening will remove their sense of security, and diagnose them with a fatal and shameful illness. Many women believe that breast cancer is a fatal illness and there isn't any treatment options that can prevent it, thus screening brings about one's death sooner.


Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Jennifer Pieters in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2006.