Women's perceptions of events impeding or facilitating the detection, investigation and treatment of breast cancer

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An integrated network is currently being implemented in the province of Quebec in order to improve the cancer care continuum. In this context, formal trajectories for cancer patients through healthcare services are being established. The investigation of patients' perceptions of the healthcare continuum is essential as it allows us to identify the issue of continuity/discontinuity of health services. In addition, patients' perceptions of continuity of cancer care should be documented since they could influence the implementation of optimal trajectories through the healthcare services. An exploratory qualitative study was conducted in order to identify events, based on the perceptions of women with breast cancer, that made the patient progress more rapidly, facilitating events, or more slowly, impeding events, within the cancer care continuum. Two consecutive series of women receiving adjuvant radiation therapy in 2002 and 2003 at the University Hospital of Quebec City were recruited, for a total of 120 participants. A semi-structured interview was administered in order to identify women's perceptions regarding impeding and facilitating events during the detection, investigation and treatment periods of cancer, as well as the actors and reasons involved. Overall, 64% of women reported having at least one impeding event, while 68% reported at least one facilitating event. The periods most frequently affected by impeding or facilitating events were the investigation period, followed by the treatment period. The main stages affected by impeding or facilitating events were the scheduling of an appointment, during the investigation period, and the onset of treatment. Impeding events particularly affected the scheduling of mammography, the initial exam of the investigation for breast cancer, as well as the onset of radiation treatment. On the other hand, facilitating events mainly occurred at the time of the scheduling of medical consultations with specialists, during the investigation period, and of the onset of surgery. Finally, women generally perceived that impeding events were due to a lack in the availability of services and that facilitating events resulted from human intervention. patients' perceptions, such as those regarding the importance of human intervention in the process of continuity of care, should be taken into account by healthcare authorities in charge of implementing cancer control programmes.

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