Background: Early diagnosis is a key determinant of breast cancer prognosis and survival. However, advanced stage presentation and delays in diagnosis are common problems in Ethiopia. More than half of the cases are diagnosed at advanced stages and the barriers to early diagnosis are not well studied in the country. Hence, this study aims to explore perceived barriers to early diagnosis of breast cancer in South and Southwestern Ethiopia.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted from March to April 2018 in six selected public hospitals located both in urban and rural settings. Twenty five purposefully selected breast cancer patients and health care providers from these public hospitals were interviewed. An in-depth interview was conducted using a topic guide by qualitative research experts. A thematic analysis was performed using Open Code software version 4.02.

Results: Patient and health system related barriers are two main themes identified for barriers to early diagnosis of breast cancer. Patient related barriers included lack of awareness and knowledge of the disease, beliefs in traditional and religious means of treatments, lack of social and financial support to seek medical care. Health system related barriers included misdiagnosis of cases, long distance referrals due to service inaccessibility, high diagnostic costs, long waiting time, unavailability of screening and diagnostic tests.

Conclusion: Early diagnosis of breast cancer is affected by a multitude of barriers in South and Southwestern Ethiopia. Hence, to increase early diagnosis of breast cancer, awareness campaigns and education about the disease, its prevention, and early detection are needed. Opportunities exist to improve early diagnosis and timely treatment by strengthening referral linkages of health care facilities in rural areas. Efforts are needed to decentralize the tertiary level oncology care and improve capacity in local health facilities.

Citation Format: Sefonias Getachew, Adamu Addissie, Aragaw Tesfaw, Lesley Taylor, Eva Kantelhardt. Perceived barriers to early diagnosis of breast cancer in south and southwestern Ethiopia: Qualitative study [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research 2020; 2020 Apr 27-28 and Jun 22-24. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2020;80(16 Suppl):Abstract nr 2315.