Women's help seeking behaviour and the associated influencing factors on self discovery of a breast symptom

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Ní Mháthuna, Máirín
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University College Cork
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To investigate women’s help seeking behavior (HSB) following self discovery of a breast symptom and determine the associated influencing factors. A descriptive correlation design was used to ascertain the help seeking behavior (HSB) and the associated influencing factors of a sample of women (n = 449) with self discovered breast symptoms. The study was guided by the ‘Help Seeking Behaviour and Influencing Factors” conceptual framework (Facione et al., 2002; Meechan et al., 2003, 2002; Leventhal, Brissette and Leventhal, 2003 and O’Mahony and Hegarty, 2009b). Data was collected using a researcher developed multi-scale questionnaire package to ascertain women’s help seeking behavior on self discovery of a breast symptom and determine the factors most associated with HSB. Factors examined include: socio-demographics, knowledge and beliefs (regarding breast symptom; breast changes associated with breast cancer; use of alternative help seeking behaviours and presence or absence of a family history of breast cancer),emotional responses, social factors, health seeking habits and health service system utilization and help seeking behavior. A convenience sample (n = 449 was obtained by the researcher from amongst women attending the breast clinics of two large urban hospitals within the Republic of Ireland. All participants had self-discovered breast symptoms and no previous history of breast cancer. The study identified that while the majority of women (69.9%; n=314) sought help within one month, 30.1% (n=135) delayed help seeking for more than one month following self discovery of their breast symptom. The factors most significantly associated with HSB were the presenting symptom of ‘nipple indrawn/changes’ (p = 0.005), ‘ignoring the symptom and hoping it would go away’ (p < 0.001), the emotional response of being ‘afraid@ on symptom discovery (p = 0.005) and the perception/belief in longer symptom duration (p = 0.023). It was found that women who presented with an indrawn/changed nipple were more likely to delay (OR = 4.81) as were women who ‘ignored the symptoms and hoped it would go away’ (OR = 10.717). Additionally, the longer women perceived that their symptom would last, they more likely they were to delay (OR = 1.18). Conversely, being afraid following symptom discovery was associated with less delay (OR = 0.37; p=0.005). This study provides further insight into the HSB of women who self discovered breast symptoms. It highlights the complexity of the help seeking process, indicating that is not a linear event but is influenced by multiple factors which can have a significant impact on the outcomes in terms of whether women delay or seek help promptly. The study further demonstrates that delayed HSB persists amongst women with self discovered breast symptoms. This has important implications for continued emphasis on the promotion of breast awareness, prompt help seeking for self discovered breast symptoms and early detection and treatment of breast cancer, amongst women of all ages.
Self-discovered breast symptom , Help seeking behaviour , Socio-demographics , Emotional response , Knowledge and beliefs , Social factors
Ní Mhathúna, M. 2011. Women's help seeking behaviour and the associated influencing factors on self discovery of a breast symptom. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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