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

Clara Victoria Giraldo, Grey Yuliet Ceballos


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.


breast cancer; health system barriers; empowerment; agency


Copyright (c) 1970 Clara Victoria Giraldo, Grey Yuliet Ceballos

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