Central African Journal of Medicine

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The health care seeking behaviours of patients diagnosed with oral and maxillofacial tumours, Harare

A Masiiwa, F Makoni, L Mahomva, P Mucheto, R Chikosi, L Mahachi


Background: Patients were presenting on their index visit at the University of Zimbabwe Oral Health Centre oral and maxillofacial clinic with tumours with durations of onset varying from months to years. Oro-facial tumour is characterized by poor treatment outcomes if the patient presents for treatment late. Health care seeking behaviour of patients at the maxillofacial clinic was therefore assessed.

Broad objective: To determine the health care seeking behaviours of patients diagnosed with oro-facial tumours attending University of Zimbabwe Oral Health Centre Oral and Maxillofacial clinic.

Study Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted at University of Zimbabwe Oral Health Centre oral and maxillofacial clinic. An interviewer administered questionnaire was used to collect data. Consenting adult patients attending the oral and maxillofacial clinic with histopathologic diagnosis of oro-facial tumour were enrolled.

Results: Sixty five patients participated, 53.8 % (35) males. Fifty four percent (35) had benign tumours. Squamous cell carcinoma was the prevalent malignancy. Fifteen percent (10) of participants with benign tumours delayed seeking medical care by a year after onset of signs and symptoms. Fifty percent (33) of  participants sought medical care because of pain. Twenty six percent (17) of patients attempted self medication before seeking professional care. Having access to a health facility encouraged health care seeking, and 62% (40) of participants sought initial medical care at a clinic, where 22% (14) were referred to the specialist, (58%) were given medication on index visit. More than 2 repeat review visits to the primary health care facility increased delay in seeking specialist care.

Conclusion: Patients with oral and maxillofacial tumours delayed seeking medical care. Primary health care facilities are the initial facilities where these patients sought health care services. Attendance at specialist was delayed by the practice of recalling patients for reviews to primary health facilities.

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