Background—Hmong women are reported to have very low rates of breast and cervical cancer screening compared to other Asian and White women in the U.S. Reasons for low cancer screening rates among this population are not well understood.
Methods—This qualitative study (n=83) explored Hmong women and men’s perceptions of breast and cervical cancer and cancer screening, women’s experiences with breast and cervical cancer screening, and health care system barriers to screening.
Results—Hmong women and men perceived breast cancer to be more severe than other types of cancers. Participants believed that breast cancer is curable if detected early. Cervical cancer was not well understood and was of greater concern than breast cancer because of its location within the body and its consequences for reproduction. In general, few participants had personal experiences with breast and/or cervical cancer. Overall, women and men had positive things to say about screenings for breast and cervical cancer, expressing that screenings offered a “proof of illness.” The majority of women did not report any concerns with the exams themselves, although some discussed embarrassment, pain, and discomfort. Barriers to screening included lack of health insurance, making co-payments, language, and issues related to scheduling appointments. Barriers differed for younger and older women.
Conclusion—Results of this study provide new insight into perceptions, experiences, and barriers to breast and cervical cancer screening among Hmong women and men. These findings have implications for developing culturally appropriate interventions to increase breast and cervical cancer screening in this population.