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International Journal of Breast Cancer
Volume 2012, Article ID 908547, 5 pages
Clinical Study

Experience of Initial Symptoms of Breast Cancer and Triggers for Action in Ethiopia

1Division of Global Health Systems and Research, Axios International 75001, Paris, France
2Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210-2938, USA
3Radiology Department, Addis Ababa University Faculty of Medicine, Tikur Anbessa Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
4Ethiopia Breast Cancer Project, Axios Foundation, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
5Ethiopian Cancer Association, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Received 26 August 2011; Accepted 24 November 2011

Academic Editor: Maria Paula Curado

Copyright © 2012 Timothy D. Dye et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. This study assessed the initial experiences, symptoms, and actions of patients in Ethiopia ultimately determined to have breast cancer. Methods. 69 participants in a comprehensive breast cancer treatment program at the main national cancer hospital in Ethiopia were interviewed using mixed qualitative and quantitative approaches. Participants’ narratives of their initial cancer experience were coded and analyzed for themes around their symptoms, time to seeking advice, triggers for action, and contextual factors. The assessment was approved by the Addis Ababa University Faculty of Medicine Institutional Review Board. Results. Nearly all women first noticed lumps, though few sought medical advice within the first year (average time to action: 1.5 years). Eventually, changes in their symptoms motivated most participants to seek advice. Most participants did not think the initial lump would be cancer, nor was a lump of any particular concern until symptoms changed. Conclusion. Given the frequency with which lumps are the first symptom noticed, raising awareness among participants that lumps should trigger medical consultation could contribute significantly to more rapid medical advice-seeking among women in Ethiopia. Primary care sites should be trained and equipped to offer evaluation of lumps so that women can be referred appropriately for assessment if needed.