Understanding Delays in Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer in India

Improving outcomes for Indian women by changing perceptions of cancer

United States National Cancer Institute

St. John's Medical College Hospital Oncology Centre, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology (Bengaluru)

Half of breast cancer cases worldwide occur in low to middle-income countries, with India accounting for 7 percent of these cases.

India lacks a nationwide organized breast cancer screening program, so treatment occurs only after a woman seeks care for symptoms. This disadvantage is seen in the 50 percent breast cancer survival rate, compared to the 90 percent survival rate in the United States.

We conducted in-depth interviews in India with 27 female breast cancer patients, their primary caregivers, and their health care providers, which enabled us to understand how breast cancer is perceived, understood, and experienced. We also explored how families, providers, and communities shaped individuals’ cancer care trajectories.

Our study provides urgently needed insights on the influences that affect when women seek medical attention for breast cancer care and how quickly they are diagnosed and offered treatment in a low and middle-income countries.

Building on these insights, our experts are working to develop and test multilevel interventions to promote the timely diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in India. By confronting the lack of information previously available and encouraging women to seek a clinical breast examination at least once in three years, we hope to improve the outlook for those women diagnosed with breast cancer.