In developing countries, breast cancer is generally diagnosed late. Two companion quantitative studies found that health system shortages were a major cause of delayed diagnosis together with poor health literacy. Yet, patients’ perceptions regarding the delays were missing.
We conducted a qualitative study to deepen our understanding of women’s experiences with diagnosis and treatment delays and highlight nuances not identifiable in the quantitative studies.
Fifteen women recruited from the quantitative study were interviewed. Information on diagnosis/treatment delays collected in the quantitative study constituted the basis for the selection of participants, the aim being to ensure a maximum of variability in the types of delays.
In addition to women’s health literacy challenges, which likely resulted from the interactions of individual, interpersonal, and systemic factors, barriers attributable to healthcare system weaknesses and financial constraints were revealed to be key factors.
To reduce late-stage diagnosis, tackling women’s “lack of breast cancer awareness” is far from sufficient. Although the majority of health professionals are not in a position to address structural and policy barriers, it is nonetheless important for them to be cognizant of these barriers so that they can better advise and guide their patients.
Implications for Practice:
Our study aimed to provide a deeper understanding of the social, cultural, and structural barriers patients face in Egypt. Such knowledge should help nurses and other health professionals develop a nonjudgmental, compassionate, and perceptive approach to care.