WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Trained lay health advisers can dramatically boost the number of rural, low-income American women who get mammography screening for breast cancer, a new study concludes.
Rural, poor and minority women are less likely than other women to have mammograms, the researchers noted.
The four-year study began in 1998 and included 851 low-income white, black and Native American women in rural North Carolina who had not had a mammogram in the previous year.
Each women filled out a survey about her knowledge of breast and cervical cancer screening and were randomly assigned to a group that received home visits from a lay health adviser or to a comparison group.
The women in the comparison group received a letter and a brochure about the need for regular cancer screening. The women in the intervention group received three in-person home visits from a lay health adviser over nine to 12 months.
During the visits, the advisers talked to the women about breast cancer, mammography, breast self-exam, and scheduling a mammogram. They also provided educations materials about cancer risk. Follow-up phone calls were made to the women to help them make mammography appointments and to encourage the women to discuss their mammogram experiences.
By the end of the study, 42 percent of the women in the intervention group had received a mammogram, compared to 27 percent of the women in the comparison group. This effect was noted in all three racial groups in the study.
"Our results show that lay health advisers can improve the rates of mammography screening among low-income, rural white, African-American and Native American women," principal investigator Electra D. Paskett, professor, College of Medicine and School of Public Health, Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement.
"The intervention improved knowledge and beliefs about mammography screening. We also empowered these women to realize that they can schedule a mammogram on their own, with or without encouragement from their doctors," Paskett said.
The findings are published in the Sept. 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer screening.