The influence of fatalism on self-reported use of Papanicolaou smears. Academic Article uri icon


  • Our objective was to examine the demographic and other predictors of fatalistic beliefs among Latinas (Hispanic women) and Anglo (non-Hispanic Caucasian) women and to assess the impact of these beliefs on the use of cervical cancer screening services.We used ethnographic interviews and a cross-sectional telephone survey in Orange County, California. Our sample included 94 Latinas and 27 Anglo women selected through organization-based network sampling for the ethnographic interviews and 803 Latinas and 422 Anglo women randomly selected for the telephone survey.Latina immigrants (Latinas born outside the United States) were more likely than U.S.-born Latinas or Anglo women to have fatalistic beliefs. Immigration, education levels, and insurance status predicted fatalistic beliefs. Fatalistic beliefs were independent predictors of Pap smear use by Latinas but not Anglo women. For example, after adjusting for potentially confounding variables, Latinas who believed that fate was a risk factor for cervical cancer (odds ratio [OR] = .58), that they would rather not know if they had the disease (OR = .58), and that there is nothing one can do to prevent it (OR = .45) were less likely than others to report that they have had a Pap smear within the prior three years. Health insurance status, marital status, and immigration also predicted use of Pap smears. Insured Latinas were more likely than uninsured Latinas (OR = 2.89) to report having a Pap smear within the prior three years. In addition, married Latinas (OR = 2.32) and Anglo women (OR = 3.09) were more likely than unmarried women to report having appropriate cervical cancer screening. Finally, Latina immigrants were less likely than other Latinas to report having a Pap smear (OR = .26).We conclude that fatalistic beliefs are among the factors that negatively influence Latinas' use of Pap smears and that it is important for health care professionals to address those beliefs. Continued efforts are also necessary to decrease the economic and structural barriers to cervical cancer screening.

publication date

  • January 1, 1997