Objectives: Unmarried women are less likely than married women to receive recommended cancer screenings. Patient-provider communication is a consistent predictor of cancer screening among women. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between patient-provider communication, barriers to cancer screening, and on-schedule breast and cervical cancer screening (BCCS) among unmarried women.
Methods: Data were from the Cancer Screening Project for Women, a 2003-2005 survey examining cancer screening practices. We computed polytomous logistic regression models to examine the relationship between communication (communication about tests, communication about sexual and intimate relationships), barriers to screening, and on-schedule BCCS among unmarried women.
Results: A total of 630 women were enrolled, and 605 women completed the baseline questionnaire. Overall, more than 60% reported on-schedule BCCS. More than half reported that their providers communicated about BCCS most or all of the time. Fewer than half communicated about sexual history and intimate relationships. Women who reported that their providers communicated about screening tests and their sexual and intimate relationships were more likely to be on-schedule for BCCS.
Conclusion: Patient-provider communication in multiple areas may encourage women to remain on-schedule for their recommended cancer screenings. Longitudinal research should be conducted to examine whether communication predicts BCCS, and to examine how patient and provider characteristics may influence communication in order to promote adherence to screening guidelines for unmarried women.
Practice Implications: Comprehensive communication that goes beyond information about screening tests may impact adherence to cancer screening guidelines.