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Korean American Women's Beliefs About Breast and Cervical Cancer and Associated Symbolic Meanings

Eunice E. Lee
Toni Tripp-Reimer
Arlene M. Miller
Georgia R. Sadler
Shin-Young Lee
ONF 2007, 34(3), 713-720 DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.713-720

Purpose/Objectives: To explore Korean American women's symbolic meanings related to their breasts and cervix, to examine attitudes and beliefs about breast and cervical cancer, and to find relationships between the participants' beliefs and their cancer screening behaviors.

Research Approach: Descriptive, qualitative analysis.

Setting: Southwestern United States.

Participants: 33 Korean-born women at least 40 years of age.

Methodologic Approach: In-depth, face-to-face, individual interviews were conducted in Korean. A semistructured interview guide was used to ensure comparable core content across all interviews. Transcribed and translated interviews were analyzed using descriptive content analysis.

Main Research Variables: Breast cancer, cervical cancer, cancer screening, beliefs, and Korean American women.

Findings: Korean American women's symbolic meaning of their breasts and cervix are closely related to their past experiences of bearing and rearing children. Negative life experiences among older Korean American women contributed to negative perceptions about cervical cancer. Having information about cancer, either correct or incorrect, and having faith in God or destiny may be barriers to obtaining screening tests.

Conclusions: Korean American women's symbolic meanings regarding their breasts and cervix, as well as their beliefs about breast cancer and cervical cancer and cancer screening, are associated with their cultural and interpersonal contexts. Their beliefs or limited knowledge appear to relate to their screening behaviors.

Interpretation: Interventions that carefully address Korean American women's beliefs about breast cancer and cervical cancer as well as associated symbolic meanings may increase their cancer screening behaviors. Clinicians should consider Korean American women's culturespecific beliefs and representations as well as their life experiences in providing care for the population.

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