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Taking Responsibility

Ovarian Cancer Patients’ Perspectives on Delayed Healthcare Seeking

Susanne Brandner, Wiebke Stritter, Jacqueline Müller-Nordhorn, Jalid Sehouli, Christina Fotopoulou, and Christine Holmberg


Patient-related diagnostic delay has been established as an analytical category in cancer research. This category has come under critique because it postulates linear cause-and-effect explanations of delayed care-seeking. These explanations are based on a one-dimensional idea of causality that neglects the processual character and the contextual situatedness of bodily experiences and care-seeking decisions. Using a notion of causality that is both process-oriented and context-sensitive, this article aims to understand ovarian cancer patients’ stories on delayed healthcare seeking. It uses data from a qualitative interview study that investigated ovarian cancer patients’ illness and healthcare-seeking experiences. We suggest that the interviewees’ retrospective perspective generated a multilayered notion of diagnostic delay that differs from the definition of patient-related delay commonly used in the literature. Our analysis shows how interviewees negotiate current social discourses on health and (social) responsibility, and thereby situate themselves and their healthcare seeking within a broader socio-economic and political context.