Intersection of social determinants of symptomatic breast cancer presentation in a rural setting: A critical ethnographic study

Peter Ntoiti Kailemia (Lead / Corresponding author), Elaine Carole Lee, Mary Josephine Renfrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Aim: The aim of the study was to explore the determinants of time to presentation of women with breast cancer symptoms within a rural setting in Kenya.

Design: A critical ethnographic study.

Methods: Data were collected between July 2019 and April 2020 using semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 12 women and 23 disclosure recipients, respectively. Interviews and focus group discussions were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, translated into English and thematically analysed. Further analysis using an intersectional lens added new insights into the data. Ethics approval was obtained in both Kenya and United Kingdom.

Results: Participants narrated their experiences from the time they self-discovered breast cancer symptoms to the time they first came into contact with a healthcare professional. The core themes identified included local cancer knowledge, embodied experience, women's responses, social networks, cultural cancer schemas, gendered social structures and healthcare system experiences.

Conclusion: The findings revealed that symptomatic women predominantly faced multiple intersecting barriers to timely presentation. The key drivers of timeliness to presentation of women with breast cancer symptoms were identified. Several proximal and distal determinants, including economic, social, psychological and cultural determinants intersected to shape women's timeliness to symptomatic presentation.

Impact: This study identified intersectional structural determinants to timely symptomatic presentation of women with breast cancer symptoms. The findings have global health implications for social inequalities in female breast cancer and may inform the development of intersectional interventions to promote timely symptomatic presentation. Furthermore, this study identified an additional interval, precursory interval and revision of the Model of pathway to treatment may be needed should this interval be validated by future studies.

Patient or public contribution: To ensure the interview guides were culturally sensitive, they were co-designed with a female breast cancer survivor, nurses providing reproductive health care to women and a bilingual expert. Both women and disclosure recipients participated in scheduling for the interviews, including the mutually agreeable days and time. Participants were frequently contacted during data analysis and report writing to clarify meaning of certain words or pieces of data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1882-1897
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number5
Early online date22 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • critical ethnography
  • critical theory
  • determinants
  • female breast cancer
  • intersection
  • intersectional
  • presentation
  • symptomatic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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