Recognizing and appraising symptoms of breast cancer as a reason for delayed presentation in Ghanaian women: A qualitative study
Public Library of Science (PLoS) -- PLOS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0208773


The burden of late presentation is well established in women presenting with advanced breast cancer in Africa. This paper aims to explore the reasons for delayed presentation in Ghanaian women with breast cancer.


Eleven (11) women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer were purposively sampled within three years of diagnosis at the palliative care clinic of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana. Participation was voluntary. Data was collected through in-depth interviews using a self-devised semi-structured interview guide. The interviews were conducted in “Twi” (local language), audio-tape recorded and covered the women’s journey from symptom discovery to their intention to seek help. All audio-taped interviews were transcribed based on the meaning of the respondents’ comments. The data was managed using Nvivo version 11 qualitative software. Data was analyzed concurrently with data collection applying the principles of thematic analysis.

Key findings

All the women delayed presentation due to overlapping reasons. Symptom appraisal among the women occurred in two main stages: individual understanding of breast symptom and interactive understanding of the breast symptom. These stages were based on cognitive, psycho-cultural and social factors. The five main themes generated from the data were: symptom experience, knowledge of breast cancer, role of social life and network, coping with a breast symptom and lastly intent to seeking health care. A conceptual model was developed to illustrate the relationships among the key factors and concepts emanated from this study.


Recognition and appraisal of breast cancer symptom in the eleven (11) Ghanaian women interviewed in this study was poor. For instance, a painless breast lump was considered not serious until a sensory symptom appears. This led women to experience appraisal and time point intervals. To minimize the incidence of late presentation of breast cancer cases in Ghana, adequate educational intervention should be provided for Ghanaian women and their social network, and other stakeholders.