The objective of the Forsyth County Cancer Screening Project is to assess barriers to breast and cervical cancer screening among low-income women and to develop an educational program to address these barriers. To properly assess the barriers, it was first necessary to determine if self-reported rates of breast and cervical cancer screening were accurate. All women who participated in the baseline survey (n = 555) were asked to provide information regarding if, where, and when they had obtained mammograms and Pap smears. Identified health care facilities were then contacted to verify this information. Approximately 80% of responses were verified for at least one of the exams with the information provided. For mammography, 77% of self-reports were correct, whereas 67% of self-reports of Pap smear screening were correct (kappa = 0.54 and 0.15, respectively). For both tests, women thought they had received them more recently than they actually had, by an average of 3 months for mammography and 23 months for Pap smears. Using validated reports of screening did not substantially change identified predictors of screening for mammography. For Pap smear screening, however, most of the identified predictors of screening became nonsignificant when medical chart reports were used instead of self-reports, suggesting that caution should be used in relying on self-reports to design programs to improve cervical cancer screening practices.

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