Intersectional social-economic inequalities in breast cancer screening in India: analysis of the National Family Health Survey

Breast cancer incidence rates are increasing in developing countries including India. With 1.3 million new cases of cancer been diagnosed annually, breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in India. India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data 2015–2016 shows that only 9.8% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had ever undergone breast examination (BE). Further, access to screening and treatment is unequally distributed, with inequalities by socio-economic status. It is unclear, however, if socio-economic inequalities in breast examination are similar across population subgroups.

We compared BE coverage in population sub-groups categorised by place of residence, religion, caste/tribal groups, education levels, age, marital status, and employment status in their intersection with economic status in India. We analysed data for 699,686 women aged 15–49 using the NFHS-4 data set conducted during 2015–2016. Descriptive (mean, standard errors, and confidence intervals) of women undergoing BE disaggregated by dimensions of inequality (education, caste/tribal groups, religion, place of residence) and their intersections with wealth were computed with national weights using STATA 12. Chi-square tests were performed to assess the association between socio-demographic factors and breast screening. Additionally, the World Health Organisation’s Health Equity Assessment Toolkit Plus was used to compute summary measures of inequality: Slope index for inequality (SII) and Relative Concentration Indices (RCI) for each intersecting dimension.

BE coverage was concentrated among wealthier groups regardless of other intersecting population subgroups. Wealth-related inequalities in BE coverage were most pronounced among Christians (SII; 20.6, 95% CI: 18.5–22.7), married (SII; 14.1, 95% CI: 13.8–14.4), employed (SII: 14.6, 95%CI: 13.9, 15.3), and rural women (SII; 10.8, 95% CI: 10.5–11.1). Overall, relative summary measures (RCI) were consistent with our absolute summary measures (SII).

Breast examination coverage in India is concentrated among wealthier populations across population groups defined by place of residence, religion, age, employment, and marital status. Apart from this national analysis, subnational analyses may also help identify strategies for programme rollout and ensure equity in women’s cancer screening.

Outcomes of Renal Trauma in Indian Urban Tertiary Healthcare Centres: A Multicentre Cohort Study

Renal trauma is present in 0.5–5% of patients admitted for trauma. Advancements in radiologic imaging and minimal-invasive techniques have led to decreased need for surgical intervention. We used a large trauma cohort to characterise renal trauma patients, their management and outcomes.

We analysed “Towards Improved Trauma Care Outcomes in India” cohort from four urban tertiary public hospitals in India between 1st September 2013 and 31st December 2015. The data of patients with renal trauma were extracted using International Classification of Diseases 10 codes and analysed for demographic and clinical details.

A total of 16,047 trauma patients were included in this cohort. Abdominal trauma comprised 1119 (7%) cases, of which 144 (13%) had renal trauma. Renal trauma was present in 1% of all the patients admitted for trauma. The mean age was 28 years (SD-14.7). A total of 119 (83%) patients were male. Majority (93%) were due to blunt injuries. Road traffic injuries were the most common mechanism (53%) followed by falls (29%). Most renal injuries (89%) were associated with other organ injuries. Seven of the 144 (5%) patients required nephrectomy. Three patients had grade V trauma; all underwent nephrectomy. The 30-day in-hospital mortality, in patients with renal trauma, was 17% (24/144).

Most renal trauma patients were managed nonoperatively. 89% of patients with renal trauma had concomitant injuries. The renal trauma profile from this large cohort may be generalisable to urban contexts in India and other low- and middle-income countries.

Association between government policy and delays in emergent and elective surgical care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil: a modeling study

The impact of public health policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on access to surgical care is poorly defined. We aim to quantify the surgical backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brazilian public health system and determine the relationship between state-level policy response and the degree of state-level delays in public surgical care.

Monthly estimates of surgical procedures performed per state from January 2016 to December 2020 were obtained from Brazil’s Unified Health System Informatics Department. Forecasting models using historical surgical volume data before March 2020 (first reported COVID-19 case) were constructed to predict expected monthly operations from March through December 2020. Total, emergency, and elective surgical monthly backlogs were calculated by comparing reported volume to forecasted volume. Linear mixed effects models were used to model the relationship between public surgical delivery and two measures of health policy response: the COVID-19 Stringency Index (SI) and the Containment & Health Index (CHI) by state.

Between March and December 2020, the total surgical backlog included 1,119,433 (95% Confidence Interval 762,663–1,523,995) total operations, 161,321 (95%CI 37,468–395,478) emergent operations, and 928,758 (95%CI 675,202–1,208,769) elective operations. Increased SI and CHI scores were associated with reductions in emergent surgical delays but increases in elective surgical backlogs. The maximum government stringency (score = 100) reduced emergency delays to nearly zero but tripled the elective surgical backlog.

Strong health policy efforts to contain COVID-19 ensure minimal reductions in delivery of emergent surgery, but dramatically increase elective backlogs. Additional coordinated government efforts will be necessary to specifically address the increased elective backlogs that accompany stringent responses.

Training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons of India (TARGET study) – Observational feasibility study

Benefits of laparoscopic surgery are well recognised but uptake in rural settings of low- and middle-income countries is limited due to implementation barriers. Gasless laparoscopy has been proposed as an alternative but requires a trained rural surgical workforce to upscale. This study evaluates a feasibility of implementing a structured laparoscopic training programme for rural surgeons of North-East India.

A 3-day training programme was held at Kolkata Medical College in March 2019. Laparoscopic knowledge and Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Skills (FLS) were assessed pre and post simulation training using multiple choice questions and the McGill Inanimate System for Training and Evaluation of Laparoscopic Skills (MISTELS), respectively. Competency with an abdominal lift device was assessed using the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) and live operating performance via the Global Operative Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills (GOALS) scores during live surgery. Costs of the training programme and qualitative feedback were evaluated.

Seven rural surgeons participated. There was an improvement in knowledge acquisition (mean difference in MCQ score 5.57 (SD = 4.47)). The overall normalised mean MISTELS score for the FLS tasks improved from 386.02 (SD 110.52) pre-to 524.40 (SD 94.98) post-training (p = 0.09). Mean OSATS score was 22.4 out of 35 (SD 3.31) indicating competency with the abdominal lift device whilst a mean GOALS score of 16.42 out of 25 (SD 2.07) indicates proficiency in performing diagnostic laparoscopy using the gasless technique during live operating. Costs of the course were estimated at 354 USD for trainees and 461 USD for trainers.

Structured training programme in gasless laparoscopy improves overall knowledge and skills acquisition in laparoscopic surgery for rural surgeons of North-East India. It is feasible to deliver a training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons. Larger studies are needed to assess the benefits for wider adoption in a similar context.

Role of General Practitioners in transforming surgical care in rural Nepal – A descriptive study from eastern Nepal.

Introduction: Nepal is a low-to-middle-income country (LMIC) with a predominantly rural population. Almost 10-20% of patients presenting to hospital require surgical care. The availability of skilled human resources in managing surgical care in rural areas of Nepal has to expand to meet this need. The objective of this study is to describe and demonstrate how General Practitioners (GPs) can be upskilled to provide surgical care in rural district hospitals in Nepal.

Method: It is a retrospective review of all surgical procedures performed by GPs from 1st February 2016 to 31st January 2021 at Charikot hospital. Data was collected from a prospectively maintained Electronic Health Record (EHR) system (Bahmini). Details of data collected included name of the procedure and its respective specialty. GP Task shifting and targeted surgical training programs for common orthopedic procedures and pediatric herniotomy were described in detail.

Result: A wide range of surgical procedures were performed by GPs over 5 years. This included interventions for obstetric emergencies, trauma and orthopedics, gynecological issues, general surgery of adult and childhood. A total of 2037 surgeries were performed by GPs including: Cesarean section 25%, 19.7% were orthopedics surgeries followed by 13.5% of mesh repair for abdominal hernia, 9.3% eversion of sac for Hydrocele, 8.7% appendectomy, 5.2% hysterectomy, 3% of pediatric herniotomy and others.

Conclusion: GPs can be further trained to perform important common surgical procedures to improve access to surgical care for rural communities.

Incidence patterns, care continuum and impact of treatment on survival among women with breast cancer in Ghana and the United States

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Of the five breast cancer subtypes, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype. Black women in the US and Ghana are more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC, at young ages and advanced stages. Combining information from Ghana and the US, this project identified the breast cancer care continuum in Ghana, examined the breast cancer incidence patterns in Ghana and the US and assessed the optimal surgical treatment for TNBC. In the first manuscript, we examined how women in Ghana navigate the healthcare system and factors that influence their decisions and ability to seek and access breast cancer care. We interviewed thirty-one women diagnosed with breast cancer in Kumasi, Ghana. Based on the findings from the interviews, we presented a framework showing specific steps in the pathways and how women transition from one step to another. In the second manuscript, we assessed factors explaining the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among Ghanaian women compared to women in the US. To achieve these aims we analyzed breast cancer data from the Kumasi Cancer Registry, the only population-based cancer registry in Ghana, and compared it to the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. Population age structure, screening and cohort effects explain the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among women in Ghana In the third manuscript, we examined whether the poor prognosis of TNBC warrants a more aggressive surgical approach and whether there is value in expanded use of radiation therapy among women with TNBC who receive mastectomy. We found that breast conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy is an effective treatment for women with early-stage TNBC. Findings from this dissertation are timely due to the rapidly rising burden of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and persistent disparities in the US.

Evaluation and usability study of low-cost laparoscopic box trainer “Lap-Pack”: a 2-stage multicenter cohort study

Laparoscopic training is restricted in low resource settings due to limited access to specialist training equipment and financial constraints. This study aimed to evaluate simulation skills and usability of an original low-cost laparoscopic trainer, the “Lap-Pack,” developed at the University of Leeds, UK.

Stage I evaluation was conducted in Kolkata (India) between March, 12 and 14, 2019. Laparoscopic simulation training was based on the 5 domains of fundamentals of laparoscopic surgery (FLS), which assessed skill acquisition across 7 rural surgeons from North-East India. The McGill Inanimate System for Training and Evaluation of Laparoscopic Skills (MISTELS) criteria was used to statistically analyze trainee performance between pretraining and posttraining sessions. Also, Lap-Pack was qualitatively compared with a commercial box trainer, Inovus Pyxus HD (IPHD). Stage II involved a multi-center usability study in 2 centers of India and the United Kingdom (2019). Seventy-eight participants performed 2 FLS tasks using Lap-Pack and provided scores on a 25-point questionnaire, including a preestablished Face-Validity Criteria and 4 evaluation categories—Usability, Camera, View, and, Material.

In stage I, the total posttraining MISTELS score for Lap-Pack was higher, that is 773.37 (SD: 183.67) than pretraining score, that is 351.2 (SD: 471.5). The posttraining scores showed laparoscopic skill acquisition with statistically significant (P<0.05) difference for precision cutting, intracorporeal and extracorporeal knot. In stage II, Lap-Pack scored highly in Face-Validity with a combined mean score of 4.81 [95% confidence interval (CI): 4.52–5.09, P<0.05] out of a possible 6. It scored highest (scale: 1=low to 7=high) in Usability 6.14 (95% CI: 6.05–6.22, P<0.05) and Camera 6.14 (95% CI: 6.01–6.27, P<0.05). The “Lightweight” (6.46, 95% CI: 6.32–6.60, P<0.05) and “Portability” (6.35, 95% CI: 6.18–6.51, P<0.05) features of Lap-Pack were appreciated.

The Lap-Pack is a suitable low fidelity simulator for laparoscopic training in a low-resource setting.

Estimating the Specialist Surgical Workforce Density in South Africa

Background: South Africa is an upper middle-income country with inequitable access to healthcare. There is a maldistribution of doctors between the private and public sectors, the latter which serves 86% of the population but has less than half of the human resources.

Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate the specialist surgical workforce density in South Africa.

Methods: This was a retrospective record-based review of the specialist surgical workforce in South Africa as defined by registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa for three cadres: 1) surgeons, and 2) anaesthesiologists, and 3) obstetrician/gynaecologists (OBGYN).

Findings: The specialist surgical workforce in South Africa doubled from 2004 (N = 2956) to 2019 (N = 6144). As of December 2019, there were 3096 surgeons (50.4%), 1268 (20.6%) OBGYN, and 1780 (29.0%) anaesthesiologists. The specialist surgical workforce density in 2019 was 10.5 per 100,000 population which ranged from 1.8 in Limpopo and 22.8 per 100,000 in Western Cape province. The proportion of females and those classified other than white increased between 2004–2019.

Conclusion: South Africa falls short of the minimum specialist workforce density of 20 per 100,000 to provide adequate essential and emergency surgical care. In order to address the current and future burden of disease treatable by surgical care, South Africa needs a robust surgical healthcare system with adequate human resources, to translate healthcare services into improved health outcomes.

Data on histological characteristics, survival patterns and determinants of mortality among colorectal, esophageal and prostate cancer patients in Ethiopia

This article describes data collected retrospectively on a cohort of esophageal, colorectal and prostate cancer patients registered in the patient log book of Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital, Ethiopia, from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2017. The key variables studied include histological characteristics of each type of cancer, clinical and TNM stages, baseline laboratory results (Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) for colorectal cancer, Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer, hemoglobin level, etc.), clinical characteristics including sign and symptoms, family history of cancer, diagnostic and treatment modalities a patient received for each type of cancer. The event status (death) was also collected using death certificates (whenever available) and supplemented by telephone interviews with the patient or attendant. Furthermore, lifestyle characteristics of patients including tobacco use, alcohol consumption, khat (‘Catha edulis’) chewing, etc. and socioeconomic characteristics including age, sex, region of residence, marital status, and educational level were also collected. The aim that led to conduct the study that generated these data was to describe clinical presentation, histological characteristics, survival pattern, and to identify determinants of mortality among cancer patients in Ethiopia. Thus, independent survival analyzes were performed using Kaplan-Meier estimates and life table analysis. Furthermore, Cox’s proportional hazards regression was developed to investigate the survival pattern and determinants of cancer specific mortality among colorectal, esophageal and prostate cancer patients.

Preliminary model assessing the cost-effectiveness of preoperative chlorhexidine mouthwash at reducing postoperative pneumonia among abdominal surgery patients in South Africa

Pneumonia is a common and severe complication of abdominal surgery, it is associated with increased length of hospital stay, healthcare costs, and mortality. Further, pulmonary complication rates have risen during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. This study explored the potential cost-effectiveness of administering preoperative chlorhexidine mouthwash versus no-mouthwash at reducing postoperative pneumonia among abdominal surgery patients.

A decision analytic model taking the South African healthcare provider perspective was constructed to compare costs and benefits of mouthwash versus no-mouthwash-surgery at 30 days after abdominal surgery. We assumed two scenarios: (i) the absence of COVID-19; (ii) the presence of COVID-19. Input parameters were collected from published literature including prospective cohort studies and expert opinion. Effectiveness was measured as proportion of pneumonia patients. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the impact of parameter uncertainties. The results of the probabilistic sensitivity analysis were presented using cost-effectiveness planes and cost-effectiveness acceptability curves.

In the absence of COVID-19, mouthwash had lower average costs compared to no-mouthwash-surgery, $3,675 (R 63,770) versus $3,958 (R 68,683), and lower proportion of pneumonia patients, 0.029 versus 0.042 (dominance of mouthwash intervention). In the presence of COVID-19, the increase in pneumonia rate due to COVID-19, made mouthwash more dominant as it was more beneficial to reduce pneumonia patients through administering mouthwash. The cost-effectiveness acceptability curves shown that mouthwash surgery is likely to be cost-effective between $0 (R0) and $15,000 (R 260,220) willingness to pay thresholds.

Both the absence and presence of SARS-CoV-2, mouthwash is likely to be cost saving intervention for reducing pneumonia after abdominal surgery. However, the available evidence for the effectiveness of mouthwash was extrapolated from cardiac surgery; there is now an urgent need for a robust clinical trial on the intervention on non-cardiac surgery.