Elapsed Time Between the First Symptoms of Breast Cancer and Medical Help-Seeking Behavior and the Affecting Factors

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Abstract

Background:

Many studies have determined that the time between women’s realization of first symptoms and seeking help from a healthcare professional is more than 1 month. The situation is defined as delay in medical help-seeking behavior (MHSB).

Objective:

The purpose of this study was to determine the time elapsed between the first symptoms of breast cancer and MHSB, as well as the factors contributing to the delay.

Methods:

In this descriptive study, the data were collected from 132 patients who received a diagnosis of breast cancer and are receiving treatment in the Oncology Clinic of Akdeniz University Hospital. The questionnaire used in the study was structured in 3 parts: sociodemographic characteristics, breast cancer history/screening behaviors, and psychological factors affecting MHSB. The elapsed time between patients’ first symptoms and MHSB was classified into “normal” when it was less than 1 month, “delay” when it was between 1 and 3 months, “long-term delay” when it was more than 3 months, and “very serious delay” when it was more than 6 months.

Results:

A total of 59.8% were classified as normal, 16.7% as delayed, 5.3% as a long-term delay, and 18.2% as a very serious delay after first symptoms. The delay in MHSB time was affected 18.55 times by “not caring/minding,” 10.73 times by “fear,” 7.13 times by “having more important problems,” and 4.23 times by “realization of first symptoms” by themselves.

Conclusion:

Psychological factors were the most important determinants in delay. The MHSB time was less if those first realizing the symptoms were healthcare professionals.

Implications for Practice:

Healthcare professionals should direct women to screenings and train them to interpret symptoms correctly.

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