Background: A contributing factor to development of malignant wounds is patient-related delay caused by health care avoidance.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of health care avoidance in women with advanced breast cancer who have developed malignant wounds.
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted based on semistructured interviews. Seventeen women with advanced breast cancer (median age, 69 years; range, 47-90 years) who had avoided medical treatment despite development of malignant wounds participated. Systematic text-condensation analysis was used.
Results: The women deliberately avoided health care for a median of 24 months (minimum, 3 months; maximum, 84 months). Despite being aware of the development of a malignant wound from a breast lump, the women avoided health care because of negative health care experiences and extremely burdening life situations. The women did not seek health care until their situations became unmanageable. The essence-"an avalanche of ignoring"-is pointing to the escalating, powerful development of destructive feelings behind health care avoidance.
Conclusions: Health care avoidance may be a way of coping both for women who are primary and/or bereaved caregivers. Oncologists and nurses may contribute to the prevention hereof by means of information about the early signs of cancer, benefits of early diagnosis and treatment, and by paying special attention to these women, who may be at high risk for avoidant behaviors.
Implications for Practice: In a preventive perspective, it seems advantageous to bring into focus the health of primary and bereaved caregivers, thereby potentially reducing patient delay and ultimately improving survival.