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Factors affecting delay in the presentation of breast cancer symptoms among women in Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory: a cross-sectional survey

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Samira S Abo Al-Shiekh, Yasser S Alajerami, Khaled M Abushab, Ahmed A Najim, Shaymaa AlWaheidi, Elizabeth A. Davies

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere061847
JournalBMJ Open
Volume12
Issue number10
DOIs
Accepted/In press21 Aug 2022
Published21 Oct 2022

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Publisher Copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To identify factors related to women's delay in presenting with breast cancer symptoms to improve diagnosis in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Two government cancer hospitals. PARTICIPANTS: A consecutive sample of 130 Palestinian women living in Gaza with newly diagnosed breast cancer were approached in the waiting rooms of cancer hospitals in Gaza between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017. 120 women took part and returned the completed questionnaire. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Clinical information about breast cancer was collected from hospital cancer records. An interval of 3 months or more between women's self-discovery of symptoms and their first presentation to a medical provider was considered as a delay. RESULTS: 94% (122/130) of women attending cancer hospitals in Gaza agreed to take part in the study. Their mean age was 51 years (range: 23-72), 33.6% (31/122) had a family history of breast cancer and 74.5% (41/55) of those whose cancer stage was known had been diagnosed at stage III or IV. Around one-half (62/122) said they had not recognised the seriousness of their breast changes but only 20% (24/122) of women delayed seeking healthcare by 3 months and more. The two only factors associated to late presentation were that the woman considered their symptoms not serious (p<0.001) and lack of pain (p=0.012). Lower socioeconomic status, older age, lower education and negative family history of breast cancer were not statistically associated with women's delay. CONCLUSIONS: Women's awareness about the seriousness of breast changes and the critical importance of seeking prompt diagnosis needs to be improved using context-relevant and evidence-based awareness campaigns. This should be accompanied with training of female nurses on promoting early detection and improvement in diagnostic facilities to ensure timely diagnosis of cancer in the oPt.

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