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Psychooncology. 2012 Dec;21(12):1316-23. doi: 10.1002/pon.2038. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

Waiting to see the doctor: understanding appraisal and utilization components of consultation delay for new breast symptoms in Chinese women.

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Centre for Psycho-oncological Research and Training, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.



Delayed consultation for potential cancer symptoms influences treatment outcomes and remains problematic. Delay components (Appraisal versus Utilization) and respective associations are poorly understood.


Eligible participants were Cantonese-speaking Chinese women, ≥21 years old, with self-discovered breast symptoms, recruited in surgical clinics before their first consultation, and naïve to their diagnosis. Overall 425/433 (98%) women completed a questionnaire on psychosocial, demographic and medical factors, how and when women discovered their breast symptom(s), and their subsequent decision making; 135/425 women (32%) were later diagnosed with breast cancer.


Twenty-two per cent of women delayed >3 months before consultation. Women with breast cancer (28%) more often had prolonged delay than women with benign disease (19%). Attributing symptom to a non-cancerous condition, low fear on symptom discovery, not disclosing symptoms to others, and no prior breast symptom history predicted prolonged (>60 days) Appraisal Delay. Low fear on symptom discovery, seldom thinking about the symptom, and consultation for other reasons predicted prolonged (>14 days) Utilization Delay. Factors predicting Appraisal and Utilization Delays differentiated cancer from non-cancer groups.


Indecision over symptom meaning comprised the main component of Appraisal and Total Delay, suggesting that educational strategies targeting atypical symptoms should reduce avoidable delays following self-discovered breast symptoms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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