Getting Used to Barriers: A Qualitative Study of Colombian Health Care System Barriers to Timely Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer


  • Clara Victoria Giraldo Universidad de Antioquia
  • Grey Yuliet Ceballos Universidad de Antioquia



breast cancer, health system barriers, empowerment, agency


The current heath care system in Colombia has within it many barriers that delay the timely diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Most women do not recognize these barriers nor do they understand that they can be changed. They still lack the basic education to identify these barriers and to navigate the system so they can receive the quality health care they deserve. We call this phenomenon "normalization of health care system barriers." Our own study seeks to understand both real and perceived barriers that hinder women who live in Medellin, Colombia, from receiving timely breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. This is qualitative study utilizes the STRAUSSian grounded theory approach, in which 13 women between the ages of 24 years and 77 years were interviewed. All participants came from different socio-cultural and economic backgrounds, according to maximum variation criteria from PATTON. The data were analyzed using Atlas.ti software. The analysis identified two phenomena: 1. the existence of barriers in the complex Colombian health care system; 2. the willingness of the women interviewed to accept this lower level of health care as normal. We urge the women to become empowered to challenge the "status quo" in order to save their own lives and the lives of countless others through early diagnosis and treatment. Once this paradigm of the "normalization of health care system barriers" is broken down, these women could improve their quality of life by being able to make wiser choices about successfully navigating the current health care system and being able to select health care providers themselves. URL:


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Author Biographies

Clara Victoria Giraldo, Universidad de Antioquia

Clara Victoria GIRALDO, Prof, Ps, MSC, Ph.D es Psicóloga, Magister en Salud Colectiva y doctora en Sociología de la University of North Texas, actualmente es la coordinadora del Grupo de Salud de las Mujeres de la Facultad de Enfermería de la Universidad de Antioquia (Medellín, Colombia). En la actualidad lidera varias investigaciones y trabajos con perspectiva de género en el área de salud reproductiva, violencia contra la mujer, promoción de la salud y enfermedad crónica.]

Grey Yuliet Ceballos, Universidad de Antioquia

Grey CEBALLOS, Enfermera de la Universidad de Antioquia (Medellín, Colombia), ha trabajado en investigación de cáncer de mama desde grupos de investigación en genética médica con una base cuantitativa y con un enfoque cualitativo desde el grupo de salud de las mujeres de la Facultad de Enfermería de la Universidad de Antioquia, con experiencia en atención domiciliaria y programas de promoción de la salud y prevención de la enfermedad y enfermedades crónicas.

How to Cite

Giraldo, C. V., & Ceballos, G. Y. (2011). Getting Used to Barriers: A Qualitative Study of Colombian Health Care System Barriers to Timely Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(2).



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