Explaining Delay in Care Seeking for Breast Cancer Symptoms1


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    This research was supported by a competitive award from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund of the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and BRSG 2-S07 RR05866-06 awarded by the Biomedical Research Support Grant Program, Division of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. The support of William H. Wolberg, Ann Paulen, and Kathy Nelson, at the Breast Problem Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as Alonzo P. Walker, Philip N. Redlich, Oza Holmes, and Anna Carini, at the Breast Care Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Medical Complex, is gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of Thomas Knapp in statistical consultation, Pat Feltskog in data management, Richard W. Hoops in editing, Lisa Somermeyer in manuscript preparation, and all participants in data collection is gratefully acknowledged.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Diane Lauver, PhD RNC, School of Nursing CSC K6/262, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792.


From a theory of care-seeking behavior, this study answered two questions: Do psychosocial variables (anxiety, utility, norm, and habit) and objective, facilitating conditions (e. g., regular practitioner) influence care-seeking delay with a breast symptom directly, or are psychosocial influences moderated by facilitating conditions? Do demographic or clinical factors explain delay, controlling for psychosocial variables and facilitating conditions? Women with breast cancer symptoms (N= 106) completed questionnaire measures. Delay was measured by the days between symptom detection and first contact with the health system. Norm and having a regular practitioner were related inversely to delay. The influence of anxiety was moderated by having a regular practitioner. Among women lacking a practitioner, anxiety was related inversely to delay; among women with a practitioner, anxiety was not related to delay. Controlling for psychosocial variables and facilitating conditions, women of color delayed longer than did Caucasians. Findings can guide research and theory about care seeking.