Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Communication and Information



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Real


A qualitative approach was used to explore the influence of mass media campaigns on Black women’s perceptions of breast cancer. The primary purpose of this study was to address the high breast cancer mortality rate among young Black women, thus informing strategies to increase awareness of risk and encourage prevention activities. Black women have higher incidence rates before age 45 and are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age. Although the breast cancer mortality variance has been linked to socioeconomic status, studies have shown that differences in cancer knowledge and beliefs persist even when educational and socioeconomic measures are statistically controlled.

Because little is known about how various ethnic group members form ideas about breast cancer in the U.S., semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 Black women between the ages of 30 and 40 to determine their knowledge and beliefs about breast cancer, as well as their personal perceptions of susceptibility to being diagnosed with breast cancer, in order to illuminate the interplay of culture and health belief systems on participants’ understanding of breast cancer messaging.

To explore the potentially complex dynamics involved in how young Black women come to construct meanings about breast cancer, a theoretical framework that coupled Cultural Models Theory with the Risk Perception Attitude framework was used to address how health campaigns influence the behaviors and breast cancer detection experiences of Black women.

Findings from the study revealed that young Black women’s perceptions of breast cancer are primarily driven by personal experiences, as opposed to mass media influences. The Black women in this study had a lack of knowledge of risk and prevention factors and did not perceive themselves to be affected by breast cancer due to their young age. In spite of cultural taboos against discussing health issues with family and friends, the women in this study tended to take responsibility for their health and were proactive in seeking and acting on health information.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)