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

Waruiru Mburu, Adwoa Bemah Boamah Mensah, Beth Virnig, John H. Amuasi, Baffour Awuah, Carolyn M. Porta, Ernest Osei-Bonsu, Shalini Kulasingam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-244
Number of pages11
JournalWomen's Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health under grant no. D43TW009345 awarded to the Northern Pacific Global Health Fellows Program and the University of Minnesota's CGHSR Scholars Program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Waruiru Mburu et al. Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


  • Ghana
  • breast cancer
  • early detection
  • pathways of care
  • sub-Saharan Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathways to Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Among Women in Ghana: A Qualitative Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this