80% of breast cancer patients in Sub-Saharan Africa have little likelihood of cure – study shows

By Elias Hakizimana

As many as 80% of patients in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are diagnosed with late-to-end stage disease when very little can be achieved in terms of curative treatment, preliminary data of a research presented in Kigali by Roche — a Switzerland-based innovative medicine and diagnostics firm — show.

Roche, which was founded in 1896, is focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives.

The burden of breast cancer, its study shows, disproportionately affects African countries with 5-year survival rates as low as 12% in parts of Africa, compared with almost 90% in the United States, Australia and Canada.

A press release from Roche states that despite advances in management, breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide.

The study revealed that limited resources is another issue which impacts access to care, resulting in sub-optimal management, high morbidity and mortality, placing breast cancer patients and their families at risk of financial hardship.

Such an obstacle remains similar for cancer care in lower middle-income countries and it impacts on developing policies.

Roche developed the study design for the first-ever breast cancer patient journey study in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to advocate for vulnerable breast cancer patients to access health care.

The study was presented at African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC)’s 11th International Conference on Cancer in Africa. The congress took place from 7 to 10 November at Kigali Convention Centre, in Rwanda.

The study will assess delays to patient care, including the delays to initiating standard of care testing (mammography, MRI, ER, HER2, chest x-ray) and to receiving these test results, as well as delays to initiation of standard of care treatment.

Mary Namata, 48, is being prepared for a needle biopsy at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Her tumors have gone untreated for about four years. Photo credit of Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Furthermore, the study will evaluate direct cost to patients, including how many pay for their cancer care out of pocket and how many are unable to complete treatment for cost reasons.

Its study aims at describing the typical breast cancer patient journey, as well as assessing resource use, cost, and other hurdles influencing patient care in public and private hospitals in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

The study also intends to describe potential delays and factors influencing patient care.

Proven data on the study will be useful to provide insight into the challenges of addressing full spectrum of breast cancer patient care in SSA, and help identify solutions needed at multiple points in the patient’s journey.

The study, which is still ongoing, will avail comprehensive data due next year 2018.

The study is a retrospective chart review conducted in three public and three private hospitals in each country, including Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria and will have a comprehensive two-year sample of up to 1000 anonymised patient records across its sites.

Useful qualitative information on breast cancer management from local healthcare providers will be included in the study giving way to analyzing and providing further contextual insights.

Roche aims to improve every step of a patient’s journey by removing barriers to access quality healthcare from diagnosis through treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We believe that patients in sub-Saharan Africa deserve the same treatment as everyone else, when we work with partners with a genuine will to make a difference for patients is when real impact can happen,” said Markus Gemuend, Head, Sub-Saharan Africa at Roche.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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