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Oncologist. 2018 Dec;23(12):1446-1452. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2017-0409. Epub 2018 Jun 29.

Fear of Mastectomy Associated with Delayed Breast Cancer Presentation Among Ghanaian Women.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
National Center for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana.
Yale School of Public Health, Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality among women globally. Most women in Ghana present with advanced stage disease. The aim of this study is to characterize sociocultural factors associated with delayed presentation.


Qualitative study (grounded theory, constant comparative method) using individual in-depth interviews with breast cancer patients seen at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. Interviews were conducted in English and three local languages. We achieved theoretical saturation with 31 participants.


The mean length of delay reported by patients was approximately 1 year. Five recurrent themes were related to delayed presentation: (a) Women with a confirmed breast cancer diagnosis delay treatment because of the fear of mastectomy due to self and societal stigma; (b) role of the church as a social support system given the societal stigma associated with breast cancer; (c) study participants expressed some awareness of breast cancer, but with varying depths of breast cancer knowledge encompassing both myths and misconceptions about breast cancer; (d) most patients present late because they do not associate a "painless" breast lump with possible breast malignancy; and (e) delayed presentation linked to significant financial burden associated with breast cancer treatment.


Despite current efforts to increase breast cancer awareness, the fear of mastectomy remains one of the main reasons for delayed presentation. Successful breast cancer education programs will need to be framed within the broader sociocultural dimensions of femininity that address some of the stigma associated with mastectomy reported in the Ghanaian context.


Most women in Ghana present with advanced-stage disease. The aim of this study was to characterize sociocultural factors associated with delayed presentation. Although several quantitative studies have been conducted on delays in presentation in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), this study is one of the few to identify fear of mastectomy as a reason for delayed presentation. Anecdotal data from current clinical experiences in SSA suggest that this is still an issue that has not been adequately reported and addressed in most SSA countries. The research results presented here will hopefully guide health providers and national organizations in designing breast cancer education programs in Ghana and other parts of SSA.


Breast cancer; Delayed presentation; Ghana; Sub‐Saharan Africa

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosures of potential conflicts of interest may be found at the end of this article.

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