Project details

Researcher: Dr Mel Cooper

Location: University of Bradford

Cost: £114,167

The challenge

Black African women are less likely to go to their breast screening appointment, compared to other communities in the UK. Only 49% of black African women who are invited to breast screening go to their appointment, compared to 67% of white women and 63% of black Caribbean women.

We don’t know what stops black African women from going to their breast screening appointments. And we need to find ways to encourage more of them to go.

“We are delighted to receive the funding to do this important work where we hope to make a difference to black African women's lives by making sure breast cancer is picked up early. Because the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better chance of successful treatment.’’ – Dr Mel Cooper

The science behind the project

Dr Mel Cooper of the University of Bradford is investigating ways to encourage black African women to go to their NHS breast screening appointments.

Mel has 3 key aims:

  • To understand what stops women from going to breast screening appointments
  • To work with black African women to develop a program that could increase attendance at breast screening
  • To test this program and improve it in response to feedback

The research team are experts in working together with ethnic minority communities on similar issues. And the approach they’ll take is based on the theory of behaviour change.

They’ll explore 3 aspects needed to encourage women to change their behaviour – capability, opportunity, and motivation.

  • Capability relates to the women knowing about breast cancer and the importance of screening
  • Opportunity is about whether their environment allows them to go so screening
  • Both of these influence the motivation to take up breast cancer screening

This approach will help the research team to find out what support black African women in the UK might need to go to breast cancer screening.

The researchers will also share their findings and recommendations with charities and voluntary sector organisations for UK African women. That’s to make sure that as many people as possible can benefit from the project.

What difference will this project make?

Mel’s research could help more black African women in the UK to go to their screening appointments. And that could lead to earlier diagnoses, and more chance of black African women surviving the disease.

In the short term, it could help the women involved in the study, and their family and friends. Our researchers hope their findings and recommendations will also help more healthcare professionals to better support and encourage black African women to go to screening.

In the long term, it could change attitudes within the black African community towards breast screening.

How many people could this project help?

There are around 160,000 black African women of screening age (50 to 70) in England and Wales. This research could also benefit other women outside the UK.