Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, RN, FAAN

  • Professor
  • Harriet H. Werley Endowed Chair in Nursing Research

Quality of Life

Dr. Ferrans is well-known for her ground-breaking work in quality of life issues in health care. She developed the Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index (QLI), which has been translated into 21 languages and used throughout the world. More than 300 research studies have been published using the QLI. The QLI has been used in clinical practice to guide health care and document treatment effects, in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs across the country, as well as for cancer care. In fact, baseline QLI scores have been demonstrated to be predictive of survival in breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, independent of cancer stage.

Cancer and Health Disparities

At its peak, the mortality rate in Chicago for breast cancer in African Americans was twice that of Caucasians, making it one of the highest in the nation. As one of the founders of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Taskforce, Dr. Ferrans spearheaded examination of the barriers to access to mammography. She was one of the primary authors of a report outlining causes for the disparities and recommendations to address them. The Illinois Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act was drawn directly from this report and in 2009 was enacted into law.

As part of this work, Dr. Ferrans developed the Cultural Beliefs Scale to assess beliefs contributing to late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer in African Americans and Hispanic women. This instrument correctly identified misconceptions associated with prolonged delay in seeking diagnosis of suspicious breast symptoms. Her team's published findings on cultural beliefs were cited by the American Cancer Society in their 2011 guidelines for breast cancer screening. She developed a short film (DVD) to address these beliefs, which was awarded a national Telly award and has been used widely to promote early detection of breast cancer in African American women.

Current Area of Teaching

Dr. Ferrans guides doctoral students and faculty members in research and the development of their research careers, which has included five Research Career Development grants from NIH. Dr. Ferrans has received a number of awards for this work.

Selected Honors & Awards
  • 2015-2020 National Cancer Institute (NIH), Board of Scientific Advisors.
  • 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award, Midwest Nursing Research Society.
  • 2014 International Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International.
  • 2014 International Faculty Mentor, Tsukuba University, Japan. 2014 Fellow, Institute of Medicine of Chicago.
  • 2013 University Scholar Award, University of Illinois.
  • 2011 Distinguished Oncology Nurse Lectureship, Ohio State University, the James Cancer Center.  
  • 2011 Telly Award (national), Health and Wellness Category for short film, "Beating Breast Cancer".
  • 2008 Distinguished Researcher , Oncology Nursing Society.
  • 2008 City Partner Award, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • 2007 Illinois Pinnacle Leader Award, Power of Nursing Leadership.
  • 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing
  • 2006 Distinguished Contributions to Research Award, Midwest Nursing Research Society.  
  • 2004 Distinguished Research Fellow, International Society for Quality of Life Studies.  
Selected Publications
  • *+Tejeda, S., Gallardo, R., Ferrans, C., Rauscher, G. (in review).  Breast cancer delay in Latinas: the role of cultural beliefs and acculturation.  Journal of Behaviorial Medicine.
  • *+Tejeda, S., Stolley, M., Vijayasiri, G., Campbell, R., Ferrans, C., Warnecke, R., Rauscher, G.  (in review).  Correlates of negative psychological consequences of breast cancer among recently diagnosed ethnically diverse women.  Psycho-Oncology.
  • *+Rauscher, G., Brewer, K., Parsons, J., Polite, B., Maker, A., Chowdhery, R., Jones, L., Warnecke, R., Ferrans, C.E.  (in review).  High prevalence of late stage colon cancer among patients with screen-detection and on-schedule prior screening: Implications for screening recommendations from the Chicago Colon Cancer Patterns of Care study.  Cancer.
  • *+Jones, L., Ferrans, C.E., Polite, B., Brewer, K., Maker, A., Pauls, H., Rauscher, G.  (in review).  Examining racial disparities in colon clinical delay in the Colon Cancer Patterns of Care in Chicago Study.  Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
  • *+Watts (Becker), E., Peterson, C., Brewer, C., Ferrans, C.E., Jones, L., Cipriano, T., Polite, B., Maker, A., Chowdhery, R., Rauscher, G.  (in review).  Low awareness and knowledge of colorectal cancer screening tests and guidelines among recently diagnosed colon cancer patients in an urban setting.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
  • *+Gallardo, R., Tejeda, S., Ferrans, C., Rauscher, G.  (in review).  Breast cancer delay in Latinas: the role of cultural beliefs and acculturation. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
  • *+Silva, A., Rauscher, G., Ferrans, C., Hoskins, K., Rao, R.  (in review).  Assessment of racial/ethnic disparities in radiation treatment recommendation and initiation among breast cancer patients.  Journal of Oncology Practice.
  • *+Ganschow, P., Elmore, J., Ferrans, C., Marcus, E., Charbeneau, J.,Kocherginsky, M., Peek, M., Han, J., Kee, R., Bork, J., Evans, A.  (in review).  Breast care delays among underserved women.  Journal of General Internal Medicine.
  • *+Silva, A., Rauscher, G., Ferrans, C., Hoskins, K., Rao, R.  (in press).  Assessing the quality of race/ethnicity, tumor, and breast cancer treatment information in a non-SEER state registry.  Journal of Registry Management.
  • *+Molina, Y., McKell, M., Mendoza, N., Barbour, L., Berrios, N., Murray, K., Ferrans, CE.  (2016).  Health volunteerism and improved cancer health for Latina and African American women and their social networks: Potential mechanisms.  Journal of Cancer Education, published online June 22, 2016.
  • *+Hacker, E., Kapella, M., Park, C., Ferrans, C., Larson, J.  (2015).  Sleep disturbances during hospitalization following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(4), 371-379.
  • *+Hasnain, M., Menon, U., Ferrans, C., Szalacha, L.  (2014).  Breast cancer screening practices among first-generation immigrant Muslim women.  Journal of Women’s Health,  23(7), 602-12. PMID: 24865517
  • *Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Ahmed, S., Franco, Z., Kissack, A., Gabriel, D., Hurd, T., Ziegahn, L., Bates, N., Calhoun, K., Carter-Edwards, L., Corbie-Smith, G., Eder, M., Ferrans, C., Hacker, K., Rumala, B., Strelnick, H., Wallerstein, N. (2014).  Towards a unified taxonomy of health indicators: Academic health centers and communities working together to improve population health.  Academic Medicine, 89(4), 564-72. PMID: 24556775
  • *+Bonner, G., Wang, E., Wilkie, D., Ferrans, C., Dancy, B., & Watkins, Y. (2014)  Advanced Care Treatment Plan (ACT-Plan) for African American family caregivers: A pilot study.  Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research, 13(1), 79-95.
  • *+Silva, A., Rauscher, G., Hoskins, K., Rao, R., Ferrans, C.  (2013).  Assessing racial/ethnic disparities in chemotherapy treatment among breast cancer patients in context of changing treatment guidelines.  Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 142 (3), 667-672.
  • *+Ricardo, A., Hacker, E., Lora, C., Ackerson, L., DeSalvo, K., Go, A., Kusek, J., Nessel, L., Ojo, A., Townsend, R., Xie, D., Ferrans, C., Lash, J., on behalf of the CRIC and HCRIC Study Groups (2013).  Validation of the Kidney Disease Quality of Life Short Form 36 (KDQOL-36) U.S. Spanish and English versions in a cohort of Hispanics with chronic kidney disease.  Ethnicity and Disease, 23(2):202-209, PMID:23530302.
  • *+Fritschi, C., Quinn, L., Hacker, E., Penckofer, S., Wang, E., Foreman, M., Ferrans, C.  (2012).  Fatigue in women with type 2 diabetesDiabetes Educator, 38(5), 662-672.  PMID: 22713262
  • *+Penckofer, S., Ferrans, C., Mumby, P., Byrn, M., Emanuele, M., Harrison, P., Durazo, R., Lustman, P.  (2012).  Psychoeducational Intervention (SWEEP) for depressed women with diabetes.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 44(2), 192-206.   PMID:  22777878
  • *+Watkins, Y., Bonner, G., Wang, E., Wilkie, D., Ferrans, C., & Dancy, B. (2012)  Relationships among trust in physicians, demographics, and end-of-life treatment decisions made by African American dementia caregivers.  Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 14(3), 238-243.
  • *+Penckofer, S., Quinn, L., Byrn, M., Ferrans, C., Miller, M., Strange, P.  (2012).  Does glycemic variability impact mood and quality of life? Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, 14 (4), 303-310. PMID: 22324383
  • *+Jacobs, E., Mendenhall, E., McAlearney, A., Rolle, I., Whitaker, E., Warnecke, R., Ferrans, C. (2011).  Exploratory study of how trust in health care institutions varies across African American, Hispanic, and white populations.  Communication and Medicine, 8(1), 89-98.  
  • *+Grutsch JF, Ferrans C, Wood PA, Du-Quiton J, Quiton DF, Reynolds JL, Ansell CM, Oh EY, Daehler MA, Levin RD, Braun DP, Gupta D, Lis CG, Hrushesky WJ.  (2011).  Association of quality of life with potentially remediable disruptions of circadian sleep-activity rhythms in patients with advanced lung cancer.  BMC Cancer, 11: 193-205.
  • *+Penckofer, S., Byrn, M., Mumby, P., Ferrans, C.  (2011).  Improving subject recruitment, retention, and participation in research through Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations.  Nursing Science Quarterly, 24(2), 146-151.
  • *+Kaiser, K., Rauscher, G., Jacobs, E., Strenski, T., Ferrans, C., & Warnecke, R.  (2011).  The importance of trust in regular physicians to trust in cancer physicians among white, African American, and Hispanic breast cancer patients.  Journal of General Internal Medicine, 26(1):51-7. 
  • *+Rauscher, G., Ferrans, C., Kaiser, K., Campbell, R., Calhoun, E., Warnecke, R.  (2010). Misconceptions about breast lumps and delayed medical presentation in urban breast cancer patients.  Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 19(3); 640–7.
  • *+Finnegan, L., Shaver, J., Zenk, S., Wilkie, D., Ferrans, C.  (2010).  The symptom cluster experience profile framework.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 37(6), E377-386. 
  • *+Jha, A., Suarez, M.L., Ferrans, C.E., Molokie, R., Kim, Y.O., & Wilkie, D.J. (2010). Cognitive testing of PAINReportIt® in adult African Americans with sickle cell disease. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 28(3), 141-50.
  • *Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., Ferrans, C.  (2010).  Vitamin D and depression:  Where is all the sunshine?  Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 31, 385-393.
  • #Ferrans, CE.  (2010).  Advances in measuring quality of life outcomes in cancer care.  Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 26(1), 2-11.
  • #Varricchio, C., Ferrans, CE.  (2010).  Quality of life assessment in clinical practice.  Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 26(1), 12-17.
  • *+Albaugh, J., & Ferrans, C.  (2010).  Impact of penile injections on men with erectile dysfunction after prostatectomy.  Urologic Nursing, 30(1) 64-77.
  • *+Mason, S., Berger, B., Ferrans, C., Sultzman, V., & Fendrich, M. (2010).   Developing a measure of stigma by association with African-American adolescents whose mothers have HIV.  Research in Social Work Practice, 20, 65-73.
  • *+Ansell, D., Grabler, P., Whitman, S., Ferrans, C., Burgess-Bishop, J., Murray, L., Rao, R., Marcus, E.  (2009).  A community effort to reduce the Black/White breast cancer mortality in Chicago.   Cancer Causes and Control,  20(9), 1681-8. 
  • *+Hrushesky, W.J.M., Grutsch, J., Wood, P., Yang, X., Oh, E.Y., Ansell, C., Kidder, S., Ferrans, C., Quiton, D.F.T., Reynolds, J., Du-Quiton, J., Levin, R., Lis, C., Braun, D. (2009). Circadian clock manipulation for cancer prevention and control and the relief of cancer symptoms.  Integrative Cancer Therapies, 8(4), 387-397.
  • *+ Finnegan, L., Campbell, R., Ferrans, C., Wilbur, J., Wilkie, D., Shaver, J. (2009).  Symptom cluster experience profiles in adult survivors of childhood cancers.  Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 38(2), 258-269.
  • *+Albaugh, J., Ferrans, C.  (2009).  Patient-reported pain with initial intracavernosal injections.  Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 513-519.
  • *Halyard, M., Ferrans, C. (2008).  Quality of life assessment for routine clinical practice.  Journal of Supportive Oncology, 6(5), 221-229, 233.  
  • *+McCreary, L., Crittenden, K., Dancy, B., Ferrans, C., Fu Q., Smith, E.  Psychometric evaluation of the Family Effectiveness Measure among low-income African American single-parent families.  Western Journal of Nursing Research, 30(8), 1021-1022.
  • *Valderas, J., Kotzeva, A., Espallargues, M., Guyatt, G., Ferrans, C., Halyard, M., Revicki, D., Symonds, T., Parada, A., Alonso, J.  (2008). Impact of measuring health related quality of life in clinical practice:  a systematic review of the literature.  Quality of Life Research, 17(2):179-93.
  • *Guyatt, G., Ferrans, C., Halyard, M., Revicki, D., Symonds, T., Varricchio, C., Kotzeva, A., Valderas, J., Alonso, J. (2007).  Exploration of the value of health-related quality of life information from clinical research and into clinical practice. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 8, 1229-1239.
  • #+Ferrans, C.  (2007).  Differences in what quality of life instruments measure.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, 37, 22-26.
  • *+Jarvis, C., Hayman, L., Braun, L., Schwertz, D., Ferrans, C., Piano, M.  (2007).  Cardiovascular risk factors and metabolic syndrome in alcohol and nicotine-dependent men and women.  Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 22,(6), 429-435.
  • *+Penckofer, S., Ferrans, C., Velsor-Friedrich, B., Savoy, S. (2007).  Psychological impact of living with diabetes:  Women’s day-to-day experience.  Diabetes Educator, 33(4), 680-690.
  • *+Kang, H.S., Ferrans, C.E., Kim, M.J., Kim. J.I., Lee, E.O.  (2007).  Aquatic exercise in older Korean women with arthritis: identifying barriers to and facilitators of long-term adherence. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 33(7), 48-56.
  • *Hsiung, Y., Ferrans, C. (2007).  Recognizing Chinese Americans cultural needs in making end-of-life treatment decisions.  Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 9(3), 132-140.
  • *+Teschendorf, B., Schwartz, C., Ferrans, C., O’Mara, A., Novotny, P., Sloan, J.  (2007).  Caregiver role stress:  When families become providers.  Cancer Control, 14(2), 183-189.
  • *+Hacker, E., Ferrans, C. (2007).  Ecological momentary assessment of fatigue in patients receiving intensive cancer therapy.  Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 33(3), 267-275.
  • *+Jacobs, L., Rolle, I., Ferrans, C., Whitaker, E., Warnecke, R.  (2006).  Understanding African Americans’ views of the trustworthiness of physicians.  Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21, 642-647.
  • *Sloan, J., Frost, M., Berzon, R., Dueck, A., Guyatt, G., Moinpour, C., Sprangers, M., Ferrans, C., Cella D.  (2006).  Clinical significance of quality of life assessments in oncology: a summary for clinicians.  Supportive Care in Cancer, 14(10), 988-998.
  • *+Hacker, E., Ferrans, C., Verlen, E., Ravandi, F., van Besien, K,. Gelms, J., Dieterle, N.  (2006). Fatigue and physical activity in patients receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 33(3), 614-624. 
  • *+Bonner, G., Ferrans, C., Moore-Burke, E., Gorelick, P.  (2005).  Determinants of trust and mistrust in physicians as identified by African American family caregivers.  African American Research Perspectives, 11, 89-102.
  • *Ferrans, C. Zerwic, J., Wilbur, J., Larson, J. (2005).  Conceptual model of health-related quality of life.  Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 37(4), 336-342.
  • *+Penckofer, S., Ferrans, C., Fink, N., Barrett, M., & Holm, K. (2005). Quality of life in women following coronary artery bypass graft surgery.  Nursing Science Quarterly, 18(2), 176-183.
  • *+Ruthman, J., & Ferrans, C. (2004).  Efficacy of a video for teaching patients about prostate cancer screening and treatment.  American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(4), 292-295.
  • *+Hacker, E., & Ferrans, C. (2003).  Quality of life immediately following peripheral blood stem cell transplantation.  Cancer Nursing, 26(4), 312-322.
  • *DeVon, H., & Ferrans, C. (2003).  Psychometric properties of four quality of life instruments used in cardiovascular populations.  Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, 23, 122-138.
  • *+Kleinpell, R., & Ferrans, C.  (2002).  Quality of life of elderly patients after treatment in ICU.  Research in Nursing and Health, 25, 212-221.
  • *#Frost, M., Bonomi, A., Ferrans, C., Wong, G., & Hays, R., and the Clinical Significance Consensus Group.  (2002).  Patient, clinician, and population perspectives on the clinical significance of quality of life scores. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 77, 488-494.
  • *+Arora, R. R., Chou, T. M., Jain, D., Fleishman, B., Crawford, L., McKiernan, T., Nesto, R., Ferrans, C. E., & Keller, S. (2002). Effects of enhanced external counterpulsation on health-related quality of life continued 12 months after treatment: a substudy of the Multicenter Study of Enhanced External Counterpulsation. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 50(1), 25-32.
  • *Whalen, G. & Ferrans, C. (2001).  Quality of life as an outcome in clinical trials and cancer care:  A primer for surgeons.  Journal of Surgical Oncology, 77, 270-276.
  • *+Berger, B. E., Ferrans, C. E.,  & Lashley, F.  (2001).  Measuring stigma in people with HIV:  Psychometric assessment of the HIV Stigma Scale.  Research in Nursing and Health, 24, 518-529.
  • *+Paice, J. A., Ferrans, C. E., Lashley, F. R., Shott, S., Vizgirda, V., & Pitrak, D.  (2000).  Topical capsaicin in the management of HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy.  Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 19, 45-52.
  • *+Potosky, A., Harlan, L., Stanford, J., Gilliland, F., Hamilton, A., Albertsen, P., Eley, W., Liff, J., Deapen, D., Stephenson, R., Llegler, J., Ferrans, C., Talcott, J., & Litwin, M.  (1999).  Prostate cancer practice patterns and quality of life: the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 91(20), 1719-1724.
  • *+Kleinpell, R., & Ferrans, C. (1998).  Factors influencing intensive care unit survival for critically ill elderly patients.  Heart & Lung, 27(5), 337-343. 
  • *+Yarbro, C., & Ferrans, C. (1998).  Quality of life of prostate cancer patients treated with surgery or radiation therapy.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 24(4), 685-693.
  • *+Medland, J., & Ferrans, C. (1998). Effectiveness of a structured communication program for family members in ICU.  American Journal of Critical Care, 7(1), 24-29.
  • *+Schlatter, S., & Ferrans, C.  (1998).  Teaching program effects on high phosphorus levels in patients receiving hemodialysis.  ANNA Journal, 25(1), 31-36.
  • *+Anderson, J., & Ferrans, C. (1997).  Quality of life of persons with chronic fatigue syndrome.  Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 185(6), 359-367.
  • *+Ferrans, C. (1996).  Development of a conceptual model of quality of life.  Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 10(3), 293-304.
  • *+Cohen, F., Ferrans, C., Vizgirda, V., Kunkle, V., & Cloninger, L. (1996).  Sleep in men and women with Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  Holistic Nursing Practice, 10(4), 33-43.
  • *+Warnecke, R., Ferrans, C., Johnson, T., Chapa Resendez, G., O'Rourke, D., Chavez, N., Dudas, S., Smith, E., Martinez Schallmoser, L., Hand, R., & Lad, T.  (1996).  Measuring quality of life in culturally diverse populations.    Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, 20, 29 38.
  • *#Ferrans, C. (1994).  Quality of life through the eyes of survivors of breast cancer.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 21(10), 1645 1651.
  • *+Ferrans, C., & Powers, M. (1993).  Quality of life of hemodialysis patients.  ANNA Journal, 20(5), 575 581.
  • *+Bliley, A., & Ferrans, C. (1993).  Quality of life after coronary angioplasty.  Heart & Lung, 22(3), 193 199.
  • #Ferrans, C. (1992).  Conceptualizations of quality of life in cardiovascular research.  Progress in Cardiovascular Nursing, 7(1), 2 6.
  • *+Ferrans, C. E., Cohen, F., & Smith, K. (1992).  Quality of life of persons with narcolepsy.  Grief, Loss, and Care, 5, 23 32.
  • *+Cohen, F., Ferrans, C. E., & Smith, K. (1992).  Self esteem in persons with narcolepsy.  Grief, Loss, and Care, 5, 45 51.
  • *+Cohen, R., Ferrans, C. E., & Eshler, B. (1992).  Reported accidents in narcolepsy.  Grief, Loss, and Care, 5, 71 80.
  • *+Hicks, F., Larson, J., & Ferrans, C. (1992).  Quality of life after liver transplant.  Research in Nursing and Health, 15, 111 119.
  • *+Ferrans, C., & Powers, M. (1992).  Psychometric assessment of the Quality of Life Index.  Research in Nursing and Health, 15, 29 38
  • *+Arzouman, J., Dudas, S., Ferrans, C., & Holm, K.  (1991).  Quality of life of patients with sarcoma postchemotherapy.  Oncology Nursing Forum,   18(5), 889 894.
  • #Ferrans, C. E. (1990).  Quality of life:  Conceptual issues.  Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 6(4), 248 254.
  • *+Ferrans, C. (1990).  Development of a quality of life index for patients with cancer.  Oncology Nursing Forum, 17(3) suppl, 15 19.
  • #Ferrans, C. (1990).  Research critique.  ANNA Journal, 17(3), 246.
  • *+Roberts, J., Ferrans, C., & Powers, M., (1989).  Adjustment to hemodialysis following kidney graft failure. Dialysis and Transplantation, 18(2), 79 85, 90.
  • *+Bihl, M., Ferrans, C., & Powers, M.  (1988).  Comparison of stressors and quality of life of CAPD and hemodialysis patients.  American Nephrology Nurses Association Journal, 15, 27 37.
  • *+Ferrans, C., Powers, M., & Kasch, C. (1987).  Satisfaction with health care of hemodialysis patients.  Research in Nursing and Health, 10, 367 374.  
  • *+Ferrans, C., & Powers, M. (1985).  Employment potential of hemodialysis patients.  Nursing Research, 34, 273 277.
  • *+Ferrans, C., & Powers, M. (1985).  Quality of Life Index:  Development and psychometric properties.  Advances in Nursing Science, 8, 15 24.
Current Research

Dr. Ferrans recently completed two studies funded by the National Cancer Institute: one examined the impact of barriers to cancer screening for African American cancer survivors located throughout the nation; the other focused on the factors contributing to late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer in African American, Latina, and white women in Chicago.  

Dr. Ferrans currently is the PI for an NIH-funded study designed to increase participation in breast cancer screening among African American women, within the Center for Excellence in Eliminating Health Disparities (NIH P60 MD003424), and she serves as one of the two Directors (PIs) for the Center.  Previous work of Dr. Ferrans’ team showed that the cultural beliefs they identified were associated with (1) longer delays after finding a suspicious breast symptom, (2) later stage of breast cancer at diagnosis, and (3) longer delays between diagnosis and the start of treatment for African American women.  The purpose of this study is to determine whether cultural beliefs about breast cancer can be changed by viewing a short film followed by at question and answer session, which would provide a simple, cost-effective technique that could be widely disseminated. A 14-minute film on DVD was produced, in which five African American cancer survivors address the cultural beliefs identified in Dr. Ferrans’ earlier work, speaking compellingly in their own words.  A pretest-posttest design was used to evaluate the DVD, with 260 African American women participating.  Cultural beliefs were evaluated by questionnaire before and after watching the DVD, and again after a question and answer period led by an African American nurse, all in one continuous session lasting 90 minutes.  Changes in beliefs were found for the entire intervention (DVD plus Q&A), with the largest change occurring after watching the DVD. Significant changes were found for total cultural belief scores, as well as specific beliefs. This is the first study we are aware of that demonstrated that cultural beliefs about breast cancer can be changed by viewing a short film on DVD.  This DVD provides a simple, cost-effective technique that can be easily used for wide dissemination, with the goal of reducing disparities in breast cancer mortality. 

Dr. Ferrans is currently conducting a dissemination project focused on the south side of Chicago with the DVD.  To date more than 5,000 women have participated in the project, with a final target of 15,000. The film has been endorsed by the American Cancer Society and was selected for a national Telly award.  Website for the project:

This work has been accomplished through NIH funding from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.