Mastectomy and the Meaning Attributed by Patients to Delay in Early Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Public Health Graduate Program, University of Fortaleza, UNIFOR, Fortaleza, Brazil.

2 School of Physiotherapy, Estácio University Center, Fortaleza, Brazil.

3 Center for Health Technology and Services Research, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.


Background: Breast cancer is a major public health problem and its early detection (ED) can reduce the number of
breast mutilations, morbidity and mortality rates, health costs and negative health outcomes. Given that, this study
aimed to assess the meaning attributed by mastectomized women to delay in early detection of their breast cancers.
Methods: Qualitative research was conducted with 26 mastectomized women who participated in semi-structured
interviews about the meaning of delay in early detection of breast cancer in a reference oncology outpatient clinic in
the city of Fortaleza, Ceará, Northeastern Brazil from December 2015 to January 2016. Information was analyzed on
the basis of symbolic interactionism. Results: After noticing breast changes, women start to ponder about them and
experience this moment according to interpretive particularities. Fear of disease, multiple roles in modern society,
denial of breast changes, lack of information on the issue, and lack of professionals to encourage their involvement in
health care, favor delay in the search for care and therefore in the early detection of breast cancer, which is a determinant of therapeutic success. Conclusion: Women receive limited information and professional support for breast health. Delay in
early diagnosis occurred in all the women who participated in the study.


Main Subjects