Reproductive Health and Wellness
Understanding pathways to breast cancer diagnosis among women in the Western Cape Province, South Africa: a qualitative study
Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore and understand women's pathways to breast cancer diagnosis and factors influencing this journey.
Design and setting: In-depth interviews were conducted with clients at a tertiary level breast cancer clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. A thematic analysis was performed underpinned by the theoretical concepts of the Model of Pathways to Treatment framework.
Participants: 20 women were interviewed within 1 week of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Results: The average time between discovery of bodily changes to breast cancer diagnosis was 8.5 months. Deficits in breast self-awareness and knowledge of breast cancer symptoms delayed women's interpretation of bodily changes as being abnormal. All women first noticed breast lumps; however, many did not perceive it as abnormal until additional symptoms were present. General good health, attribution of symptoms to ageing, and past benign breast disease resulted in women being complacent about bodily changes. Disclosure to family members served as a trigger to seek healthcare. The initial type of primary level care services women accessed was influenced by perceptions of care each service provided, finances, structural factors, and personal safety related to the physical location of services.
Conclusions: Symptom appraisal and interpretation contributed significantly to delayed presentation. To improve timely diagnosis of breast cancer, interventions that increase women's confidence in detecting breast changes, improve knowledge of breast cancer symptoms, address myths, and encourage prompt help-seeking behaviour are required.
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