Understanding Barriers to Malaysian Women with Breast Cancer Seeking Help


Delay in help-seeking behaviour which is potentially preventable has a major effect on the prognosis andsurvival of patients with breast cancer. The objective of this study was to explore reasons for delay in seeking helpamong patients with breast cancer from the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia. A qualitative study using faceto-face in-depth interview was carried out involving 12 breast cancer patients who had been histo-pathologicallyconfirmed and were symptomatic on presentation. Respondents were selected purposely based on their historyof delayed consultation, diagnosis or treatment. All were of Malay ethnicity and the age range was 26-67 years.Three were in stage ll, seven in stage lll and two in stage lV. At the time of interview, all except one respondent hadaccepted treatment. The range of consultation time was 0.2-72.2 months with a median of 1.7 months, diagnosistime was 1.4-95.8 months( median 5.4 months )and treatment time was 0-33.3 months (median 1.2 months). Thethemes derived from the study were poor knowledge or awareness of breast cancer, fear of cancer consequences,beliefs in complementary alternative medicine, sanction by others, other priorities, denial of disease, attitude ofwait and see and health care system weakness. Help-seeking behaviour was influenced by a complex interactionof cognitive, environmental, beliefs, culture and psycho-social factors. Breast cancer awareness and psychologicalcounselling are recommended for all patients with breast symptoms to prevent delay in seeking clinical help.