Afghan Women’s Breast Health Program

Led by principal investigator Aida Shirazi, the Afghan Coalition collaborated with the University of California, Berkeley researchers in a recent pilot study known as “Breast Health Behaviors of Afghan Immigrant Women in Northern California.
” Early detection and treatment of breast cancer can save lives." Despite evidence that early detection leads to decreased breast cancer mortality, it continues to be underused by minority women, especially new immigrants.


The study gave the research team a preliminary understanding of how Afghan women in Northern California

view their breast health. During an 18-month period from July 2007 through December 2008, the team

interviewed 53 non-English speaking, first generation immigrant Muslim women in Farsi. The team collected socio-demographic, health services utilization and family history of breast cancer information to provide a context for the analysis of the semi-structured in-depth interviews.

  • The mean age of the participants was 46 years (range=40-87). Sixty five percent were married and more than 90% did not work outside the house.

  • The majority of the women considered themselves forced immigrants with the mean length of residence in the United States of 16 years (range =1-28).

  • Forty percent reported very limited English fluency, with 30% speaking no English at all.

  • Forty percent of the women had no formal education and only12% had more than 12 years of education.

  • More than 99% of the women reported annual household of less than $50,000 a year

  •  77% had public insurance. Among the participants

  • 37.7% reported having a first-degree relative who had breast cancer.

  • Among the participants 28.3% had a clinical breast examination (CBE) within the last year,

  • 30.2% more than two years ago, and 41% reported never having a CBE. Among the 65.9 % who reported having had a mammogram, more that half reported having had one more than the two years ago and almost 34% reported never having had a mammogram.

To our knowledge there are no published studies that have explored breast health care behaviors and needs of immigrant Afghan women in the United States. This pilot study was the first attempt to address this research gap. The team’s scientific analysis of the findings generated a number of themes regarding breast health screening behaviors of immigrant Muslim Afghan women. The findings have guided the design of an innovative culturally and linguistically appropriate breast health education intervention program to promote breast health screening among first generation Afghan  women.

To receive more information regarding this program please contact Aida Shirazi, Ph.D. at (510)745-1682