Breast cancer stigma among Indonesian women: a case study of breast cancer patients

BMC Womens Health. 2020 Jun 3;20(1):116. doi: 10.1186/s12905-020-00983-x.


Background: The stigma experienced by cancer patients stems from the association of cancer with death, as cancer is the most feared disease worldwide, especially among cancer patients and their families. The stigma regarding breast cancer screening behaviour has not been critically evaluated and is poorly understood; therefore, we aimed to analyse the stigmatization of breast cancer patients in Indonesia to reduce the morbidity and mortality of breast cancer.

Methods: A qualitative study using a focus group discussion (FGD) and in-depth interviews with thematic analysis was conducted.

Results: One informant experienced breast pain and kept the referral letter, in which the medical doctor advised medical treatment, to herself for 3 months due to her embarrassment. A traditional healing practice known as 'kerokan', which involves scraping of the skin, and consumption of a traditional drink were used by most informants to decrease their breast pain. Finally, most informants were diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer when they returned to the health care facility. In addition, financial difficulties were noted as barriers to breast cancer screening in Indonesia.

Conclusions: Feelings of fear and shame when diagnosed with breast cancer were reported by the informants in this study. Alternative treatment known as 'kerokan' was the first treatment sought for breast cancer symptoms due to financial difficulties among breast cancer patients. Informants were diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer after they returned to the health care facility. A better understanding of early breast cancer symptoms could motivate women to seek out breast cancer treatment.

Keywords: Breast cancer screening; Breast cancer stigma; Indonesian women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Shame
  • Social Stigma*