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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


RAYNE, S et al. Delay to diagnosis and breast cancer stage in an urban South African breast clinic. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2019, vol.109, n.3, pp.159-163. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in many low- and middle-income countries, and often presents at an advanced stage that affects prognosis irrespective of the care available. Although patient-related delay is commonly cited, the reasons for delay and the relationship of delay to stage are still poorly documented, especially in Africa OBJECTIVES: To identify where patient-related socioeconomic delays occur and how these relate to stage at presentation METHODS: Consecutive women with a new breast cancer diagnosis were prospectively invited to complete a questionnaire on their socioeconomic characteristics and ability to access care. Clinical stage at presentation was documented RESULTS: Over 14 months, 252 women completed the questionnaire (response rate 71.6%). Their median age was 55 years (interquartile range 44 - 65), with 26.5% aged <45 years. Stage at presentation was stage 1 in 15.5% of patients, stage 2 in 28.5% and stage 3 in 56.0%. Almost a third of the patients (30.4%) presented with a T4 tumour (6.1% inflammatory). Total delay in presenting to the breast clinic was significantly associated with locally advanced stage at presentation (p=0.021). Average delay differed between early stage (1.5 months) and locally advanced (2.5 months), and most delay occurred between acknowledging a breast symptom and seeking care. The least delay was between attending a health service and presenting at the open-access breast clinic, with 75.0% presenting within 1 month. Factors associated with delay were difficulties with transport, low level of education and fear of missing appointments due to work CONCLUSIONS: Most women delayed in seeking breast care. Facilitating direct access to specialist breast clinics may reduce delays in presentation and improve time to diagnosis and care

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