Religiosity, spirituality, and cancer fatalism beliefs on delay in breast cancer diagnosis in african american women

Mary Magee Gullatte, Otis Brawley, Anita Kinney, Barbara Powe, Kathi Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


African American women are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to present with a later stage of breast cancer at initial diagnosis. Delay in breast cancer detection is a critical factor in diagnosis at a later stage. Available data indicate a delay of 3 months or more is a significant factor in breast cancer mortalty. Numerous factors have been reported as contributing to delay in time to seek medical care including religiosity, spirituality, and fatalistic beliefs. This study examined the influence of religiosity, spirituality, and cancer fatalism on delay in diagnosis and breast cancer stage in African American women with self-detected breast symptoms. A descriptive correlation, retrospective methodology using an open-ended questionnaire and three validated measurement scales were used: the Religious Problem Solving Scale (RPSS), the Religious Coping Activity Scale (RCAS) subscale measuring spiritually based coping, and the modified Powe Fatalism Inventory (mPFI). A convenience sample of 129 women ages between 30 and 84 years who self-reported detecting a breast symptom before diagnosis of breast cancer within the preceding 12 months were included in the study. Outcome variables were time to seek medical care and breast cancer stage. Other variables of interest included marital status, income, education, insurance status, and to whom the women spoke about their breast symptoms. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, logistic regression analysis, Pearson r correlations, Mann-Whitney U analysis, and Chi Square analysis. Participants were found to be highly religious and spiritual but not fatalistic. While most women delayed more than 3 months in seeking medical care, no associations were found between the three predictor variables and time to seek medical care. The median delay in time from self detection of a breast symptom to seeking medical care was 5.5 months. Women who were less educated, unmarried, and talked to God only about their breast change were significantly more likely to delay seeking medical care. An association was found between disclosing a breast symptom to God only and delay in seeking medical care. In contrast, women who had told a person about their breast symptom were more likely to seek medical care sooner. African American women who delayed seeking medical care for longer than 3 months were more likely to present with a later stage of breast cancer than women who sought care within 3 months of symptom discovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • African American women
  • Breast cancer screening and diagnosis
  • Breast tumor/neoplasm/malignancy
  • Delay in screening and seeking medical care
  • Religion
  • Religiosity
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Religious studies


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