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

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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).


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.


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.


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.


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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