Original Research

Knowledge about breast cancer and reasons for late presentation by cancer patients seen at Princess Marina Hospital, Gaborone, Botswana

Deogratias Mbuka-Ongona, John M. Tumbo
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 5, No 1 | a465 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v5i1.465 | © 2013 Deogratias Mbuka-Ongona, John M. Tumbo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 June 2012 | Published: 02 October 2013

About the author(s)

Deogratias Mbuka-Ongona, Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, University of Limpopo (Medunsa Campus), South Africa
John M. Tumbo, Department of Family Medicine & Primary Health Care, University of Limpopo (Medunsa Campus), South Africa


Introduction: In Botswana, breast cancer, the second most common malignancy amongst women, is often diagnosed late, with 90% of patients presenting at advanced stages at Princess Marina Hospital (PMH) Gaborone, the only referral hospital with an operational oncology department. The reasons for this late presentation have not been studied. Determination of these reasons is critical for the formulation of strategies to reduce morbidity and mortality from breast cancer in Botswana. The aim of this study was to explore existing knowledge about breast cancer and the reasons for late presentation amongst patients attending the oncology unit of Princess Marina Hospital.

Method: A descriptive qualitative study using free attitude interview was performed.Twelve breast cancer sufferers were purposefully selected and eleven interviews conducted. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and translated. Thematic analysis of data was performed.

Results: This study found that breast cancer sufferers had had poor knowledge of the disease prior to the diagnosis. Their knowledge improved markedly during their attendance to the oncology clinic. Screening methods such as breast self-examination (BSE) were not used frequently. The majority of participants had delayed going to the hospital because of a lack of knowledge, fear of the diagnosis and fear of death, misinterpretation of the signs, the influence of lay beliefs and advice from the community. In some cases, however, advice from family and friends resulted in a timely medical consultation. The poor clinical practices of some healthworkers and the inadequate involvement by decision makers regarding the issue of cancer awareness discouraged patients from seeking and adhering to appropriate therapy.

Conclusions: Awareness and knowledge of breast cancer was found to be poor amongst sufferers prior to their diagnosis, but their awareness and knowledge improved after the diagnosis. There was limited use of screening methods and a generally delayed seeking of medical attention. The need for increased awareness and use of screening practices was identified to be essential for early diagnosis of the disease and for improved outcomes of breast cancer management in Botswana.


breast cancer; knowledge; screening; help-seeking


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