Delayed Presentation of Self-discovered Breast Cancer Symptoms in Iranian Women: A Qualitative Study


Background: Delayed presentation of symptomatic breast cancer is a public health issue in Iran, making amajor contribution to low survival. Despite the importance of this problem, current knowledge is insufficient toinform interventions to shorten patient delay. The aim of this study was to explore factors influencing patient delayin Iranian women with self-discovered breast cancer symptom. Materials and
Methods: This qualitative studywas conducted during 2012-2013. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit 20 Iranian women with self-discoveredsymptoms of breast cancer who attended the Cancer Institute of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran,Iran. Data were collected through semi-structured in-depth audiotaped interviews, which were transcribed andanalyzed using conventional content analysis with MAXqda software version 10. Findings: Content analysis of thedata revealed four main themes related to the delay in seeking medical help including: 1) attributing symptomsto the benign conditions; 2) conditional health behavior; 3) inhibiting emotional expression; and 4) barriers toaccess to health care systems.
Conclusions: These results suggest that patient delay is influenced by complexand multiple factors. Effective intervention to reduce patient delay for breast cancer should be developed byfocusing on improvement of women’s medical knowledge, managing patients’ emotional expression and reformof the referral system.