Fellow 2014-15

Venera Bekteshi

Social Work

Contextual approach to cultural implications of mammography screening in Mexican-born women in new-growth areas of Illinois

Mammography remains the most effective screening technique for timely diagnosis and, consequently, effective treatment of breast cancer. Immigrant Latina women utilize mammography at lower rates than non-Hispanic white women and remain at higher risk of presenting with late-stage breast cancer. Why is this so? During her Center appointment, Professor Bekteshi will investigate how structural contests specific to Mexican-immigrant women in new-growth areas of Illinois (e.g., health insurance, income level, transportation challenges, documentation status, daily discrimination and poor treatment from healthcare professionals) interact with cultural factors to affect rates of mammography screening. She will also investigate the effect of emotional and belief pathways of traditional Latino culture.

For example, fatalismo, the traditional belief that there is little an individual can do to alter fate (and, by extension, prevent cancer), has been linked with fear that a cancer diagnosis will limit one’s ability to enjoy time with children and future family generations. Several views embedded in Latino tradition, including humility, modesty, and discomfort over disclosing personal information, have all been associated with embarrassment, which is one of the most commonly cited emotional barriers to mammography among Latinas.

Professor Bekteshi’s study begins a research trajectory that ultimately will address (a) the importance of support systems, including social and family support, in overcoming barriers to mammography participation among Mexican-immigrant Latinas in central Illinois, (b) the role of healthcare professionals in addressing these barriers, and (c) gaps in the healthcare system that may lead to poor interaction with healthcare professionals. The results will contribute to the comprehensive knowledge that is needed for identifying solutions to reduce and eliminate this health disparity.