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Understanding Perceptions of Breast Health in a Southern Appalachian Community

Shinault, Hannah
Committee Members: 
Dr. Candace White
August 2016



Culture is central to how individuals perceive and understand health. Thus, the Appalachian culture impacts how Appalachian women perceive and maintain breast health. Using information about the broader Appalachian region and the Southern Appalachian sub-region, specifically, as well as the existing body of literature about cancer, culture, and communication theory, this qualitative study describes breast health from the point of view of women and health information providers in this region in order to better communicate about breast health maintenance practices.

Results from this study will allow individuals working with breast cancer patients and prevention to better understand how cultural identity influences perceptions related to breast health, as well as develop more culturally appropriate breast health messages, which may reduce breast cancer mortality in the long term.

Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 32 women and 4 health information providers in one Southern Appalachian community. The main theme that emerged from the data was: Appalachian Cultural Identity Moderates Perceptions About Breast Health. Four thematic constructs helped support the main theme: (1) The belief that breast health maintenance through recommended practices is important, (2) The belief that personal relationships impact breast health positively, (3) The belief that culture impacts breast health negatively, and (4) The belief that circumstance impacts breast health negatively.