WASHINGTONA definite link exists between mammography screening and
lessened breast cancer mortality, but black women do not take full advantage
of cancer screening, according to Janice S. Emerson, research associate,
Center for Health Research, Tennessee State University, Nashville. Speaking
at the American Psychological Association Conference on Enhancing Outcomes
in Women’s Health, she presented findings from an HCFA-funded project, led
by Dr. Baqar A. Husaini.
In addition to cost and inconvenience, Ms. Emerson noted, researchers
have ascribed this failure of black women to seek mammography screening to
other factors, including lack of knowledge about cancer, lack of knowledge
about who needs a mammogram, and health care providers’ failure to
recommend that women get mammograms. But recent data show that depression is
a significant factor as well. Ms. Emerson described a study that examined
the relationship between depression and screening mammography as well as the
effect of social support on lessening the former and increasing the latter.
An experimental group of 288 black women at least 40 years old received
an educational intervention informing them about mammography. A control
group of 56 comparable women received no such intervention. Each subject
underwent an evaluation for depression and answered questions about her
mammography practices and the sources and degree of social support in her
daily life, in general and regarding mammograms.
Women who had not gotten needed mammograms showed "a great deal more
depressive symptoms" than those who had, Ms. Emerson reported.
Social support specifically related to mammograms, such as participating
in discussions about mammography’s benefits, greatly increased the
likelihood that a woman would get screened, she said. General social
support, however, as measured by the number of friends women mentioned, had
no effect on that likelihood except indirectly, insofar as it helped lessen
Interventions aimed at increasing mammography among black women should
therefore focus not only on conveying information about mammograms but on
the psychological context in which the women live, Ms. Emerson said.