Pathways to Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Among Women in Ghana: A Qualitative Study

Background: Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Ghanaian women and most women are identified once they develop symptoms. Women then must navigate a complex health care system to get diagnosed and receive orthodox medicine. We describe Ghanaian women’s pathways of care from breast cancer-related symptom detection to treatment receipt. Methods: We conducted a qualitative study using an empirical phenomenological approach. We used a purposive sampling technique to recruit 31 women with breast cancer who were receiving treatment at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. They participated in semistructured in-depth interviews between November 2019 and March 2020. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a deductive coding approach. Results: Women navigate approximately nine steps from symptom detection to receiving orthodox breast cancer treatment. The breast cancer care pathway is not linear and women frequently move among different management approaches, including alternative therapy (faith healing and traditional herbal healing). All the women detected the symptoms themselves. Some of the women sought orthodox medicine due to information from the media. Conclusions: Alternative therapy providers play a critical role in the breast cancer diagnosis and care pathways in Ghana underscoring the need to formally integrate them into the health care system. Breast cancer awareness programs through the media and educational programs aimed at alternative therapy providers may reduce the time from symptom detection to receipt of orthodox medicine.
This article is published in Women’s Health Reports Volume 2.1, 2021 ; DOI: 10.1089/whr.2020.0117
Women’s Health Reports Volume 2.1, 2021 ; DOI: 10.1089/whr.2020.0117