Challenges and opportunities for breast cancer early detection among rural dwelling women in Segamat District, Malaysia: A qualitative study

Breast cancer patients in low- and middle-income countries often present at an advanced stage. This qualitative study elicited views regarding the challenges and opportunities for breast cancer screening and early detection among women in a low-income semi-rural community in Segamat district, Malaysia.

Individual semi-structured interviews with 22 people (health professionals, cancer survivors, community volunteers and member from a non-governmental organization) and four focus group discussions (n = 22 participants) with women from a local community were conducted. All participants were purposively sampled and female residents registered with the South East Asia Community Observatory aged ≥40 years were eligible to participate in the focus group discussions. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis.

The thematic analysis illuminated barriers, challenges and opportunities across six domains: (i) personal experiences and barriers to help-seeking as well as financial and travel access barriers; (ii) primary care challenges (related to delivering clinical breast examination and teaching breast-self-examination); (iii) secondary care challenges (related to mammogram services); (iv) disconnection between secondary and primary care breast cancer screening pathways; and (v) opportunities to improve breast cancer early detection relating to community civil service society activities (i.e. awareness raising, support groups, addressing stigma/embarrassment and encouraging husbands to support women) and vi) links between public healthcare personnel and community (i.e. improving breast self-examination education, clinical breast examination provision and subsidised mammograms).

The results point to a variety of reasons for low uptake and, therefore, to the complex nature of improving breast cancer screening and early detection. There is a need to adopt a systems approach to address this complexity and to take account of the socio-cultural context of communities in order, in turn, to strengthen cancer control policy and practices in Malaysia.

Association Between Adherence to Clinical Practice Guidelines for Adjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer and Survival in a Resource-Limited Setting

Addressing unwarranted clinical variation in oncology practices is expected to lead to improved cancer outcomes. Particularly, the application and impact of treatment guidelines on breast cancer outcomes are poorly studied in resource-limited settings. We measured adherence to a set of locally developed adjuvant treatment guidelines in a middle-income setting. Importantly, the impact of guidelines adherence on survival following breast cancer was determined.

Data of 3,100 Malaysian women with nonmetastatic breast cancer diagnosed between 2010 and 2017 were analyzed. Adherence to the Malaysian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Management of Breast Cancer second Edition was measured. Outcomes comprised overall survival and event-free survival.

Guideline adherence for chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy were 61.7%, 79.2%, 85.1%, and 26.2%, respectively. Older age was generally associated with lower adherence to guidelines. Compared with patients who were treated according to treatment guidelines, overall survival and event-free survival were substantially lower in patients who were not treated accordingly; hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were 1.69 (95% CI, 1.29 to 2.22), 2.59 (95% CI, 1.76 to 3.81), 3.08 (95% CI, 1.94 to 4.88), and 4.48 (95% CI, 1.98 to 10.13) for chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy, respectively. Study inferences remain unchanged following sensitivity analyses.

Our study findings appear to suggest that adherence to treatment guidelines that have been adapted for resource-limited settings may still provide effective guidance in improving breast cancer outcomes.

OneHealth Approaches Contribute Towards Antimicrobial Resistance: Malaysian Perspective

On a global scale, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognized as a One Health challenge due to the continual and increased development and distribution of resistant microbes and genes among humans, animals, and the environment. These sectors contribute to the increase in AMR, as antibiotics are widely used in healthcare to treat or prevent bacterial infection; as growth enhancers, therapeutics and metaphylactics in animal husbandry; and transmitted in the environment through irrigation using wastewater or inappropriate disposal and treatment of human and agricultural waste. However, there is a major drawback in terms of the lack of research assessing the coexistence of AMR in these sectors. Extensive research highlighted food–animal manufacture structures that are likely to harbor reservoirs or promote transmission of AMR, in addition to increasing human colonization with AMR commensal bacteria. Numerous antibiotic stewardship policies have been designed and implemented in medical practices and animal husbandry in high- and middle-income countries. However, research concentrating on high-income settings, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs on the utilization of antimicrobials remain underexplored in lower- and middle-income countries such as Malaysia. Microbiological, epidemiological, and social science exploration are required at community and farming across the One Health range to fill huge gaps in information and knowledge of AMR. Manipulating human activities and character associated with antibiotics is a multifaceted progression that includes elements like knowledge, social behavior, attitudes, approaches, social standards, socioeconomic settings, peer pressure, experiences, and biophysical environment. Therefore, understanding these aspects in the utilization of antimicrobial drugs among the different sectors is essential to develop and implement policies to curb AMR development and transmission that overarch all sectors within the One Health consortium in Malaysia.

Silver linings: a qualitative study of desirable changes to cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Introduction: Public health emergencies and crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate innovation and place renewed focus on the value of health interventions. Capturing important lessons learnt, both positive and negative, is vital. We aimed to document the perceived positive changes (silver linings) in cancer care that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify challenges that may limit their long-term adoption.

Methods: This study employed a qualitative design. Semi-structured interviews (n = 20) were conducted with key opinion leaders from 14 countries. The participants were predominantly members of the International COVID-19 and Cancer Taskforce, who convened in March 2020 to address delivery of cancer care in the context of the pandemic. The Framework Method was employed to analyse the positive changes of the pandemic with corresponding challenges to their maintenance post-pandemic.

Results: Ten themes of positive changes were identified which included: value in cancer care, digital communication, convenience, inclusivity and cooperation, decentralisation of cancer care, acceleration of policy change, human interactions, hygiene practices, health awareness and promotion and systems improvement. Impediments to the scale-up of these positive changes included resource disparities and variation in legal frameworks across regions. Barriers were largely attributed to behaviours and attitudes of stakeholders.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to important value-based innovations and changes for better cancer care across different health systems. The challenges to maintaining/implementing these changes vary by setting. Efforts are needed to implement improved elements of care that evolved during the pandemic.

Emergency general surgery in a public hospital in Malaysia

Introduction: Patients undergoing emergency general surgery (EGS) are at risk for death and complications. Information on the burden of EGS is critical for developing strategies to improve the outcomes.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, medical records of all general surgical operations in a public hospital were reviewed for the period 1st January 2017 to 31st December 2017. Data on patient demographics, operative workload, case mix, time of surgery and outcomes were analysed.

Results: Of the 2960 general surgical operations that were performed in 2017, 1720 (58.1%) of the procedures were performed as emergencies. The mean age for the patients undergoing emergency general surgical procedures was 37.9 years (Standard Deviation, ±21.0), with male preponderance (57.5%). Appendicitis was the most frequent diagnosis for the emergency procedures (43%) followed by infections of the skin and soft tissues (31.6%). Disorders of the colon and rectum ranked as the third most common condition, accounting for 6.7% of the emergency procedures. Majority of emergency surgery (59.3%) took place after office hours and on weekends. Post-operative deaths and admissions to critical care facilities increased during EGS when compared to elective surgery, p<0.01.

Conclusions: EGS constitutes a major part of the workload of general surgeons and it is associated significant risk for death and post-operative complications. The burden of EGS must be recognised and patient care systems must evolve to make surgery safe and efficient.

COVID-19’s Impact on Neurosurgical Training in Southeast Asia

Objective: Neurosurgery departments worldwide have been forced to restructure their training programs due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In this study, we describe the impact of COVID-19 on neurosurgical training in Southeast Asia.

Methods: We conducted an online survey among neurosurgery residents in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand from 22 to 31 May 2020 using Google Forms. The 33-item questionnaire collected data on elective and emergency neurosurgical operations, ongoing learning activities, and health worker safety.

Results: A total of 298 out of 470 neurosurgery residents completed the survey, equivalent to a 63% response rate. The decrease in elective neurosurgical operations in Indonesia and in the Philippines (median=100% for both) was significantly greater compared with other countries (p <.001). For emergency operations, trainees in Indonesia and Malaysia had a significantly greater reduction in their caseload (median=80% and 70%, respectively) compared with trainees in Singapore and Thailand (median=20% and 50%, respectively, p <.001). Neurosurgery residents were most concerned about the decrease in their hands-on surgical experience, uncertainty in their career advancement, and occupational safety in the workplace. Most of the residents (221, 74%) believed that the COVID-19 crisis will have a negative impact on their neurosurgical training overall.

Conclusions: An effective national strategy to control COVID-19 is crucial to sustain neurosurgical training and to provide essential neurosurgical services. Training programs in Southeast Asia should consider developing online learning modules and setting up simulation laboratories, to allow trainees to systematically acquire knowledge and develop practical skills during these challenging times.

Management and outcomes following emergency surgery for traumatic brain injury – A multi-centre, international, prospective cohort study (the Global Neurotrauma Outcomes Study).

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for a significant amount of death and disability worldwide and the majority of this burden affects individuals in low-and-middle income countries. Despite this, considerable geographical differences have been reported in the care of TBI patients. On this background, we aim to provide a comprehensive international picture of the epidemiological characteristics, management and outcomes of patients undergoing emergency surgery for traumatic brain injury (TBI) worldwide. The Global Neurotrauma Outcomes Study (GNOS) is a multi-centre, international, prospective observational cohort study. Any unit performing emergency surgery for TBI worldwide will be eligible to participate. All TBI patients who receive emergency surgery in any given consecutive 30-day period beginning between 1st of November 2018 and 31st of December 2019 in a given participating unit will be included. Data will be collected via a secure online platform in anonymised form. The primary outcome measures for the study will be 14-day mortality (or survival to hospital discharge, whichever comes first). Final day of data collection for the primary outcome measure is February 13th. Secondary outcome measures include return to theatre and surgical site infection. This project will not affect clinical practice and has been classified as clinical audit following research ethics review. Access to source data will be made available to collaborators through national or international anonymised datasets on request and after review of the scientific validity of the proposed analysis by the central study team.

Ultrasound-guided pericardiocentesis: a novel parasternal approach

The aim of this study was to evaluate a novel pericardiocentesis technique using an in-plane parasternal medial-to-lateral approach with the use of a high-frequency probe in patients with cardiac tamponade.
Echocardiography is pivotal in the diagnosis of pericardial effusion and tamponade physiology. Ultrasound guidance for pericardiocentesis is currently considered the standard of care. Several approaches have been described recently, which differ mainly on the site of puncture (subxiphoid, apical, or parasternal). Although they share the use of low-frequency probes, there is absence of complete control of needle trajectory and real-time needle visualization. An in-plane and real-time technique has only been described anecdotally.
A retrospective analysis of 11 patients (63% men, mean age: 37.7±21.2 years) presenting with cardiac tamponade admitted to the tertiary-care emergency department and treated with parasternal medial-to-lateral in-plane pericardiocentesis was carried out. The underlying causes of cardiac tamponade were different among the population. All the pericardiocentesis were successfully performed in the emergency department, without complications, relieving the hemodynamic instability. The mean time taken to perform the eight-step procedure was 309±76.4 s, with no procedure-related complications.
The parasternal medial-to-lateral in-plane pericardiocentesis is a new technique theoretically free of complications and it enables real-time monitoring of needle trajectory. For the first time, a pericardiocentesis approach with a medial-to-lateral needle trajectory and real-time, in-plane, needle visualization was performed in a tamponade patient population.