The Breast Cancer Experience of Slavic Women

Institution: University of California, Davis
Investigator(s): Debora Paterniti, Ph.D. - Roman Romaso,  -
Award Cycle: 2006 (Cycle 12) Grant #: 12AB-3300 Award: $166,431
Award Type: CRC Pilot Award
Research Priorities
Community Impact of Breast Cancer>Disparities: eliminating the unequal burden of breast cancer



Initial Award Abstract (2006)
Introduction to the research topics: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the greater Sacramento area is now the home of the largest Slavic community in the country (close to 100,000 persons). Based on Sacramento public health clinic data (2004), 69.57 percent of those within the Slavic community are underinsured and 17.54 percent are uninsured. The Slavic community, like other immigrant groups, brings health-related problems derived from their culture, their migration experience, and their marginal status in their new country. These issues often manifest as higher disease incidence, severe morbidity, barriers to health care utilization or limited access to services, an apparent higher prevalence of unhealthy behaviors, and a lower impetus for preventive health practices. These issues may be exacerbated for female immigrants.

We propose to better understand the breast cancer experience of Slavic women so that we may develop a program for Slavic community-based health educators who will have the skills and training materials to help women in their community to understand breast health, access prevention and screening, and seek care for breast cancer.

The hypotheses of the research: Our primary research question is: How do Slavic immigrant women come to understand breast health and breast cancer (i.e., what is their lived experience)?

The general methodology in non-technical terms: We will conduct nine focus groups made up of first and second generation Slavic women from Sacramento and Yolo counties and ask them questions relating to their experience with breast cancer, how they understand breast health, what problems they may face related to getting health care. We will use the information from these focus groups to design a community health education training program by and for Slavic women.

Data analysis will consist of the following steps: translation and transcription; iterative review and development of a codebook; computer-assisted coding and retrieval of common themes and patterns in the data; and “off screen” examination of the interaction aspects of the focus groups.

Innovative elements of the project: To describe Slavic women’s current understandings of breast health and barriers to care and care seeking to design a health educator program by and for Slavic women. Very little is known about these issues in this population.

Community involvement: We believe the best way to understand the breast health and breast cancer experience of Slavic women is by talking with them about their experiences. Community members will be involved throughout the project by participating in town hall meetings and focus group discussions. During the town hall meetings, community members will have a chance to review the results and provide feedback on our findings. The Community Health Council (CHC) will also have an important role in providing direction and feedback in all areas of the study. The CHC will assist the collaborative team in understanding what our study results mean and how they might be best used to design a training program for the Slavic community health workers for the overall breast health and screening education for Slavic women.


Final Report (2008)
The Slavic community, like other immigrant groups, brings unique health-related problems derived from their culture, their migration experience, and their marginal status in their new country. These issues often manifest as higher disease incidence, severe morbidity, barriers to health care utilization or limited access to health-related services. The goal of our pilot project was to gain an understanding of the breast cancer and breast health experiences of Slavic women in Sacramento and Yolo counties.

We conducted 6 focus group interviews with Slavic women and one with health professionals and leaders in the Sacramento Slavic community. Forty-four women, ranging in age from 23-74, from Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and Russia participated in one of the five focus groups. The women in the focus groups reported living in the U.S. between three and fifteen years with a mean of seven years.

Slavic immigrant women in Sacramento County have a need for (1) more accessible information about breast health and cancer prevention; (2) that comes from familiar avenues (i.e., a known source as well as a culturally and linguistically appropriate channel); (3) provides empowerment in their interactions with U.S. physicians; and (4) offers strategies for maintaining breast health and preventing cancer. Details on the necessary content of educational materials and the channels of delivery were gathered in an additional focus group of 12 women and in a meeting with our Advisory Board.

We met our target goals of participant recruitment and number of focus groups; however, as we gathered data, we decided to expand on our original aim to look only at a single channel for intervention delivery and choose to explore other avenues.

Expanding the second aim of our project means that we still have yet to explore some aspects of women's breast health and strategies for the delivery of an effective intervention for the prevention of breast cancer in the Slavic community.

The findings of our work have been presented at national, state, and local meetings of social scientists and cancer researchers. We will use the results of our pilot data to design a proposal for further developing and testing three channels for educational intervention (print, radio, and face-to-face).


Symposium Abstract (2007)
Our project is aimed at understanding the breast health and cancer experience of Slavic women so that we may develop a program for Slavic community-based health educators who will have the skills and training materials to help women in their community to understand breast health, to access screening, and to seek care for breast cancer. Our primary research question is: How do Slavic immigrant women come to understand breast health and breast cancer (i.e., what is their experience)? We believe that the best way to understand the breast health and breast cancer experience of Slavic women is by talking with Slavic women about their experiences. We have conducted six focus groups made up of first and second generation Slavic women from Sacramento and Yolo counties. We asked women questions relating to their experience with breast cancer, how they understand breast health, and about the problems they face related to getting health care. Community members have been involved throughout the project by participating in town hall meetings and focus group discussions. During the town hall meetings, community members reviewed the focus group results and provided feedback on our findings. We will describe Slavic women’s current understandings of breast health and barriers to care and care seeking to design a health educator program by and for Slavic women. Our presentation identifies Slavic immigrant women’s understandings of breast health and care as well as barriers to care, screening, and treatment. Information from focus group data and community-based input has helped our team design a preliminary community health education training program by and for Slavic women. We will assess the acceptability of this training program in a second phase of focus groups.