Health beliefs, illness perceptions and determinants of breast screening uptake in Malta: a cross-sectional survey



Marmara D, Marmara V & Hubbard G (2017) Health beliefs, illness perceptions and determinants of breast screening uptake in Malta: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 17, Art. No.: 416.

Background  Women’s beliefs and representations of breast cancer (BC) and breast screening (BS) are salient predictors for BS practices. This study utilized the health belief model (HBM) and common-sense model (CSM) of illness self-regulation to explore factors associated with BS uptake in Malta and subsequently, to identify the most important predictors to first screening uptake.  Methods  This cross-sectional survey enrolled Maltese women (n=404) ages 50 to 60 at the time of their first screening invitation, invited to the National Breast Screening Programme by stratified random sampling, with no personal history of BC. Participants responded to a 121-item questionnaire by telephone between June–September 2015. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, chi-square tests and logistic regression.  Results  There is high awareness of BC signs and symptoms among Maltese women (>80% agreement for 7 out of 8 signs), but wide variation about causation (e.g., germ or virus: 38.6% ‘agree’, 30.7% ‘disagree’). ‘Fear’ was the key reason for non-attendance to first invitation (41%,n=66) and was statistically significant across all subscale items (p<0.05). Most items within HBM constructs (perceived barriers; cues to action; self-efficacy) were significantly associated with first invitation to the National Breast Screening Programme, such as fear of result (χ2=12.0,p=0.017) and life problems were considered greater than getting mammography (χ2=38.8,p=0.000). Items within CSM constructs of Illness Representation (BC causes; cyclical cancer timeline; consequences) were also significantly associated, such as BC was considered to be life-changing (χ2=18.0,p=0.000) with serious financial consequences (χ2=13.3,p=0.004). There were no significant associations for socio-demographic or health status variables with uptake, except for family income (χ2=9.7,p=0.047). Logistic regression analyses showed that HBM constructs, in particular perceived barriers, were the strongest predictors of non-attendance to first invitation throughout the analyses (p<0.05). However, the inclusion of illness representation dimensions improved the model accuracy to predict non-attendance when compared to HBM alone (65% vs 38.8%).  Conclusions  Interventions should be based on theory including HBM and CSM constructs, and should target first BS uptake and specific barriers to reduce disparities and increase BS uptake in Malta.

Breast cancer screening; Mammography; Uptake; Factors; Health belief model; Common-sense model

BMC Public Health: Volume 17

Publication date08/05/2017
Publication date online08/05/2017
Date accepted by journal27/04/2017
PublisherBioMed Central

People (1)


Dr Gill Hubbard

Dr Gill Hubbard

Reader, Health Sciences (Highland & W.Isles)