Shedding light on women's help seeking behaviour for self discovered breast symptoms

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Purpose: To describe women's help seeking behaviour (HSB) and the associated influencing factors on self-discovery of a breast symptom. Methods: A descriptive, correlational survey design was used. Following ethical approval, survey data were collected from women (n=449) attending the breast clinics of two large urban hospitals within the Republic of Ireland. Results: The majority of women (69.9%; n=314) sought help (by visiting their General practitioner, GP) within one month, 30.1% (n=135) delayed help seeking for more than one month following symptom discovery and 16.7% (n=75) delayed for three months or more. The factors most significantly associated with delayed HSB were knowledge around symptom identity (Odds Ratio (OR)=4.80, p=0.005); ignoring the symptom and hoping it would go away (OR=10.72, p<0.001) and women's belief that the symptom would persist for a long time (OR=1.18, p=0.023). Being afraid on symptom discovery (OR=0.37, p=0.005) was associated with reduced risk of delayed HSB. Conclusions: It is encouraging to see that the majority of women who find a breast symptom seek help promptly. However, a small cohort of women delay seeking help from their GP. HSB is influenced by multiple factors which can impact on patient outcomes. Findings are important for oncology nurses who have a key role to play in promoting breast awareness, prompt help seeking and early detection and treatment of breast cancer, amongst women. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.




O’Mahony, M., McCarthy, G., Corcoran, P., & Hegarty, J. (2013). Shedding light on women’s help seeking behaviour for self discovered breast symptoms. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 17(5), 632–639.

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