Understanding Barriers to Malaysian Women with Breast Cancer Seeking Help

  • Norsa'adah, Bachok (Unit of Biostatistics and Research Methodology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia) ;
  • Rahmah, Mohd Amin (Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Rampal, Krishna Gopal (Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) ;
  • Knight, Aishah (Advanced Medical & Dental Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia)
  • Published : 2012.08.31


Delay in help-seeking behaviour which is potentially preventable has a major effect on the prognosis and survival of patients with breast cancer. The objective of this study was to explore reasons for delay in seeking help among patients with breast cancer from the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia. A qualitative study using face-to-face in-depth interview was carried out involving 12 breast cancer patients who had been histo-pathologically confirmed and were symptomatic on presentation. Respondents were selected purposely based on their history of 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 had accepted treatment. The range of consultation time was 0.2-72.2 months with a median of 1.7 months, diagnosis time was 1.4-95.8 months( median 5.4 months )and treatment time was 0-33.3 months (median 1.2 months). The themes 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 of wait and see and health care system weakness. Help-seeking behaviour was influenced by a complex interaction of cognitive, environmental, beliefs, culture and psycho-social factors. Breast cancer awareness and psychological counselling are recommended for all patients with breast symptoms to prevent delay in seeking clinical help.


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