BACKGROUND: To identify potential delays in the management of patients with breast cancer examined at a public hospital, from time of suspicion until diagnosis and beginning of treatment. METHODS: Retrospective study which analyzed data related to time elapsed in different intervals between suspicion, diagnosis and onset of systemic cancer-directed treatments, of consecutive breast cancer patients cared for at the medical oncology clinic of the Mario Covas Hospital during 2006. RESULTS: Sixty-eight women, with a mean age of 56.3 years (standard deviation: 12.2 years), were included. Of all the intervals, the longest delay occurred between the mammographic suspicion of cancer and performance of biopsy (median of 72 days, range: 4 - 1095 days); this was significantly longer (P<0.001) than in the other intervals analyzed. Furthermore, this interval in particular, was significantly longer in patients with advanced stage breast cancer when compared to those at the initial stage (P=0.014). CONCLUSION: Breast cancer patients treated in a public hospital in Brazil suffer delays, especially during the diagnosis of their disease. Minimizing the time between mammography and biopsy of suspicious lesions appears to be the most crintical step to correct this situation.
Breast cancer; Diagnosis; Delays; Treatment