Fear might interfere with breast cancer messages, communication researcher finds

April 4, 2014 by Rachel Webb

When it comes to encouraging African American women to seek breast-cancer screening, the fear factor might be getting in the way, according to an award-winning study by a University of Missouri–St. Louis faculty member.

Viewers who felt sad after watching videos discussing were more likely to remember what they saw and more likely to want to seek out screening procedures like mammograms than those who felt afraid, according to the paper by Jina Yoo.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States. Mortality rates for the disease have been dropping since 2000, but for African American women remain higher than those for Caucasian women. Black women are also less likely to get cancer screenings such as mammograms, which is why Yoo and the research team focused the project on them.

"Breast cancer is a very emotional subject," said Yoo, associate teaching professor of communication at UMSL. "I wanted to know what kind of emotions are affecting a person's decision to get a mammogram."

The paper won the Frank Prize in Public Communications Research from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Health Communication published "Understanding Narrative Effects: The Role of Discrete Negative Emotions on Message Processing and Attitudes Among Low-Income African American Women" in October. Yoo authored the paper with Matthew Kreuter and Choi Lai of Washington University in St. Louis, and Qiang Fu, of St. Louis University. Yoo performed the work through the Health Communication Laboratory at Washington University.

For the study, 479 African American watched one of two videos produced for the project—one featured the personal stories of breast- survivors, and the other presented information in a more objective way read by a narrator. Participants had to be over the age of 40 and come from low-income households. After watching one of the videos, participants were surveyed regarding their emotions and memory of the information presented. Participants also completed follow-up phone surveys several weeks after the initial survey.

Those who reported feeling fear were less likely to remember information about what they saw and were less likely to express a desire to seek than those who reported sadness. Those who watched the narrative video also reported more recall of the information presented than those who watched the video that was strictly informational.

"Fear may not be the most effective emotion to induce in a health context," Yoo said. "When people are afraid of something, they don't want to think about it; they want to avoid it."

Yoo said that she would like to create her own lab to study the role of emotions in the context of health decisions.

Explore further: Women's cancer screenings down during great recession

More information: "Understanding Narrative Effects: The Role of Discrete Negative Emotions on Message Processing and Attitudes Among Low-Income African American Women." Jina H. Yoo, Matthew W. Kreuter, Choi Lai, Qiang Fu. Health Communication. Vol. 29, Iss. 5, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2013.776001

Related Stories

Women's cancer screenings down during great recession

March 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—American women were less likely to receive a mammogram or Pap smear during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 than they were five years earlier, according to a study by researchers at the University of Maryland ...

Interactive phone messages may promote cancer screening

March 27, 2014
(HealthDay)—Underserved Latina patients view interactive voice response (IVR) messages as an acceptable strategy to promote cancer screening, according to a study published online March 13 in the U.S. Centers for Disease ...

Biomarker linked to aggressive breast cancers, poor outcomes in African-Americans

December 8, 2013
Among African-American women with breast cancer, increased levels of the protein HSET were associated with worse breast cancer outcomes, according to results presented here at the Sixth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer ...

FDA warns against nipple test for breast cancer screening

December 14, 2013
(HealthDay)—A new test marketed as an alternative to a mammogram for breast cancer detection is not an effective screening TOOL, U.S. health officials say.

Black women have worse breast cancer mortality regardless of cancer subtype

April 8, 2013
Black women with breast cancer had significantly worse survival compared with other racial and ethnic groups across cancer subtypes, which suggests that the survival differences are not solely attributable to the fact that ...

Recommended for you

Study may explain failure of retinoic acid trials against breast cancer

July 25, 2017
Estrogen-positive breast cancers are often treated with anti-estrogen therapies. But about half of these cancers contain a subpopulation of cells marked by the protein cytokeratin 5 (CK5), which resists treatment—and breast ...

Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

July 25, 2017
A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Breaking the genetic resistance of lung cancer and melanoma

July 25, 2017
Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers – particularly lung cancer and melanoma – are able to quickly develop deadly resistance ...

New therapeutic approach for difficult-to-treat subtype of ovarian cancer identified

July 24, 2017
A potential new therapeutic strategy for a difficult-to-treat form of ovarian cancer has been discovered by Wistar scientists. The findings were published online in Nature Cell Biology.

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

Anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agent inhibits glioblastoma growth and radiation resistance

July 24, 2017
Glioblastoma is a primary brain tumor with dismal survival rates, even after treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A small subpopulation of tumor cells—glioma stem cells—is responsible for glioblastoma's ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.