Minimizing Delays in the Breast Cancer Pathway by Integrating Breast Specialty Care Services at the Primary Health Care Level in Zambia

In Zambia, more than two-thirds of female patients with breast cancer present with late-stage disease, leading to high mortality rates. Most of the underlying causes are associated with delays in symptom recognition and diagnosis. By implementing breast care specialty services at the primary health care level, we hypothesized that some of the delays could be minimized.

In March 2018, we established a breast care specialty clinic for women with symptomatic disease within 1 of the 5 district hospitals in Lusaka. The clinic offers breast self-awareness education, clinical breast examination, breast ultrasound, ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, surgery, referral for chemoradiation, follow-up care, and electronic medical records.

Between March 2018 and April 2019, of 1,790 symptomatic women who presented to the clinic, 176 (10%) had clinical and/or ultrasound indications for histologic evaluation. Biopsy specimens were obtained using ultrasound-guided core-needle procedures, all of which were performed on the same day as the initial visit. Of the 176 women who underwent biopsy, 112 (64%) had pathologic findings compatible with a primary breast cancer, and of these, 42 (37%) were early-stage (stage I/II) disease. Surgery for early-stage cancers was performed at the district hospital within 2 weeks of the time of definitive pathologic diagnosis. Patients with advanced disease were referred to the national cancer center for multimodality therapy, within a similar time frame.

Breast care specialty services for symptomatic women were established in a district-level hospital in a resource-constrained setting in Africa. As a result, the following time intervals were minimized: initial presentation and performance of clinical diagnostics; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and initiation of surgery; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and referral.

Awake Craniotomy in a Child: Assessment of Eligibility with a Simulated Theatre Experience

Background: Awake craniotomy is a useful surgical approach to identify and preserve eloquent areas during tumour resection, during surgery for arteriovenous malformation resections and for resective epilepsy surgery. With decreasing age, a child’s ability to cooperate and mange an awake craniotomy becomes increasingly relevant. Preoperative screening is essential to identify the child who can undergo the procedure safely. Case Description. A 11-year-old female patient presented with a tumour in her right motor cortex, presumed to be a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour (DNET). We had concerns regarding the feasibility of performing awake surgery in this patient as psychological testing revealed easy distractibility and an inability to follow commands repetitively. We devised a simulated surgical experience to assess her ability to manage such a procedure. During the simulated theatre experience, attempts were made to replicate the actual theatre experience as closely as possible. The patient was dressed in theatre attire and brought into the theatre on a theatre trolley. She was then transferred onto the theatre bed and positioned in the same manner as she would be for the actual surgery. Her head was placed on a horseshoe headrest, and she was made to lie in a semilateral position, as required for the surgery. A blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, nasal cannula with oxygen flow, and calf pumps were applied. She was then draped precisely as she would have been for the procedure. Theatre lighting was set as it would be for the surgical case. The application of the monitoring devices, nasal cannula, and draping was meant not only to prepare her for the procedure but to induce a mild degree of stress such that we could assess the child’s coping skills and ability to undergo the procedure. The child performed well throughout the simulated run, and surgery was thus offered. An asleep-awake-asleep technique was planned and employed for surgical removal of the tumour. Cortical and subcortical mapping was used to identify the eloquent tissue. Throughout the procedure, the child was cooperative and anxiety free. Follow-up MRI revealed gross total removal of the lesion.

Conclusion: A simulated theatre experience allowed us to accurately determine that this young patient, despite relative contraindications, was indeed eligible for awake surgery. We will continue to use this technique for all our young patients in assessing their eligibility for these procedures.

Is AJCC/UICC Staging Still Appropriate for Head and Neck Cancers in Developing Countries?

By 2030, 70% of cancers will occur in developing countries. Head and neck cancers are primarily a developing world disease. While anatomical location and the extent of cancers are central to defining prognosis and staging, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC)/International Union Against Cancer (UICC) have incorporated nonanatomic factors that correlate with prognosis into staging (eg, p16 status of oropharyngeal cancers). However, 16 of 17 head and neck surgeons from 13 African countries cannot routinely test for p16 status and hence can no longer apply AJCC/UICC staging to oropharyngeal cancer. While the AJCC/UICC should continue to refine staging that best reflects treatment outcomes and prognosis by incorporating new nonanatomical factors, they should also retain and refine anatomically based staging to serve the needs of clinicians and their patients in resource-constrained settings. Not to do so would diminish their global relevance and in so doing also disadvantage most of the world’s cancer patients.

Impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic on pediatric oncology care in the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia Region: A report from the Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean (POEM) Group

Childhood cancer is a highly curable disease when timely diagnosis and appropriate therapy are provided. A negative impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic on access to care for children with cancer is likely but has not been evaluated.

A 34‐item survey focusing on barriers to pediatric oncology management during the COVID‐19 pandemic was distributed to heads of pediatric oncology units within the Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean (POEM) collaborative group, from the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia. Responses were collected on April 11 through 22, 2020. Corresponding rates of proven COVID‐19 cases and deaths were retrieved from the World Health Organization database.

In total, 34 centers from 19 countries participated. Almost all centers applied guidelines to optimize resource utilization and safety, including delaying off‐treatment visits, rotating and reducing staff, and implementing social distancing, hand hygiene measures, and personal protective equipment use. Essential treatments, including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy, were delayed in 29% to 44% of centers, and 24% of centers restricted acceptance of new patients. Clinical care delivery was reported as negatively affected in 28% of centers. Greater than 70% of centers reported shortages in blood products, and 47% to 62% reported interruptions in surgery and radiation as well as medication shortages. However, bed availability was affected in <30% of centers, reflecting the low rates of COVID‐19 hospitalizations in the corresponding countries at the time of the survey.

Mechanisms to approach childhood cancer treatment delivery during crises need to be re‐evaluated, because treatment interruptions and delays are expected to affect patient outcomes in this otherwise largely curable disease.

Cancer incidence and treatment utilization patterns at a regional cancer center in Tanzania from 2008-2016: Initial report of 2,772 cases

Purpose: To describe cancer incidence and treatment utilization patterns at the regional cancer referral center for the Lake Zone of northwestern Tanzania from 2008 to 2016.

Methods: This descriptive, retrospective study reviewed all cancer cases recorded in the Bugando Cancer Registry (BCR), a clinical and pathology based registry at the only cancer referral hospital in the region. Primary tumor site, method of diagnosis, HIV status, and cancer treatment were reported. Using census data, the 2012 GLOBOCAN estimates for Tanzania were scaled to the Lake Zone and adjusted for 2016 population growth. These estimates were then compared to BCR cases using one-sample tests of proportion.

Results: A total of 2772 cases were reported from 2008-2016. Among these, the majority of cases (82.5 %, n = 2286) were diagnosed among adults. Most cases (85 %, n = 1923) were diagnosed by histology or cytology. Among adults, the most common cancers diagnosed were cervix (22.7 %, n=520), breast (12.6 %, n=288), and prostate (8.5 %, n=195). Among children, the most common cancers were non-Burkitt non-Hodgkin lymphoma (17.3 %, n=84), Burkitt lymphoma (16.5 %, n=80), and Wilms tumor (14.6 %, n=71). The 1116 BCR cases represent 12.2 % of the 9165 expected number of cancer cases for the Lake Zone (p < 0.001). 1494 cases (53.9 %) received some form of treatment - surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy - while 1278 cases (46.1 %) had no treatment recorded. Conclusions: This comprehensive report of the BCR reveals cancer epidemiology and treatment utilization patterns typical of hospitals in low-resource settings. Despite being the only cancer center in the Lake Zone, BMC evaluates a small percentage of the expected number of cancer patients for the region. The BCR remains an important resource to guide clinical care and academic activities for the Lake Zone.

Management of cervical cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic: a challenge for developing countries

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health services worldwide are going through important adaptations to assist patients infected with COVID-19, at the same time as continuing to provide assistance to other potentially life-threatening diseases. Although patients with cancer may be at increased risk for severe events related to COVID-19 infection, their oncologic treatments frequently cannot be delayed for long periods without jeopardising oncologic outcomes. Considering this, a careful consideration for treatment management of different malignancies is required.

Cervical cancer is concentrated mainly in low-middle income countries (LMICs), which face particular challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the scarcity of health resources in many places. Although cervical cancer is the fourth cause of cancer death among women, it receives little attention from international Oncology societies and scientific research studies. In this review paper, we discuss the cervical cancer landscape and provide specialists recommendations for its management during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly focused on LMICs’ reality.

Perspectives on how to navigate cancer surgery in the breast, head and neck, skin, and soft tissue tumor in limited-resource countries during COVID-19 pandemic

The rapidly spreading coronavirus infection (COVID-19) worldwide has contracted all aspects of health systems. Developing countries that mostly have a weaker healthcare system and insufficient resources are likely to be the most hardly affected by the pandemic. Cancers are frequently diagnosed in late stages with higher case-fatality rates compared to those in high-income countries. Delayed diagnosis, lack of cancer awareness, low adherence to treatment, and unequal or limited access to treatment are among the challenging factors of cancer management in developing countries. Elective cancer surgeries are often considered to be postponed during COVID-19 pandemic to preserve valuable hospital resources such as personal protection equipment, hospital bed, intensive care unit capacity, and manpower to screen and treat the affected individuals. However, specific considerations to defer cancer surgery in developing countries might need to be carefully adjusted to counterbalance between preventing COVID-19 transmission and preserving patients ‘long-term life expectancy and quality of life.

Breast Cancer messaging in Vietnam: an online media content analysis

Background: Breast cancer incidence is increasing in Vietnam with studies indicating low levels of knowledge and awareness and late presentation. While there is a growing body of literature on challenges faced by women in accessing breast cancer services, and for delivering care, no studies have sought to analyse breast cancer messaging in the Vietnamese popular media. The aim of this study was to investigate and understand the content of messages concerning breast cancer in online Vietnamese newspapers in order to inform future health promotional content.

Methods: This study describes a mixed-methods media content analysis that counted and ranked frequencies for media content (article text, themes and images) related to breast cancer in six Vietnamese online news publications over a twelve month period.

Results: Media content (n = 129 articles & n = 237 images) sampled showed that although information is largely accurate, there is a marked lack of stories about Vietnamese women’s personal experiences. Such stories could help bridge the gap between what information about breast cancer is presented in the Vietnamese media, and what women in Vietnam understand about breast cancer risk factors, symptoms, screening and treatment.

Conclusions: Given findings from other studies indicating low levels of knowledge and women with breast cancer experiencing stigma and prejudice, more nuanced and in-depth narrative-focused messaging may be required.

Recommendations for Head and Neck Surgical Oncology Practice in a Setting of Acute Severe Resource Constraint During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An International Consensus

The speed and scale of the global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented pressures on health services worldwide, requiring new methods of service delivery during the health crisis. In the setting of severe resource constraint and high risk of infection to patients and clinicians, there is an urgent need to identify consensus statements on head and neck surgical oncology practice. We completed a modified Delphi consensus process of three rounds with 40 international experts in head and neck cancer surgical, radiation, and medical oncology, representing 35 international professional societies and national clinical trial groups. Endorsed by 39 societies and professional bodies, these consensus practice recommendations aim to decrease inconsistency of practice, reduce uncertainty in care, and provide reassurance for clinicians worldwide for head and neck surgical oncology in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the setting of acute severe resource constraint and high risk of infection to patients and staff.

Uro-oncology in Times of COVID-19: The Available Evidence and Recommendations in the Indian Scenario

The Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19), one of the most devastating pandemics ever, has left thousands of cancer patients to their fate. The future course of this pandemic is still an enigma, but health care services are expected to resume soon in a phased manner. This might be a long drawn process and we need to have policies in place, to be able to fight both, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and cancer, simultaneously, and emerge triumphant. An extensive literature search for impact of delay in management of various urological malignancies was carried out. Expert opinions were sought wherever there was paucity of evidence, in order to reach a consensus and come up with recommendations for directing uro-oncology services in the times of COVID-19. The panel recommends deferring treatment of patients with renal cell carcinoma by 3 to 6 months, except for those with ongoing hematuria and/or inferior vena cava thrombus, which warrant immediate surgery. Metastatic renal cell cancers should be started on targeted therapy. Low grade non-muscle invasive bladder cancers can be kept on active surveillance while high risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancers and muscle invasive bladder cancers should be treated within 3 months. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy should be avoided. Management of low and intermediate risk prostate cancer can be deferred for 3 to 6months while high risk prostate cancer patients can be initiated on neoadjuvant androgen deprivation therapy. Patients with testicular tumors should undergo high inguinal orchiectomy and be treated according to stage without delay, with stage I patients being offered surveillance. Penile cancers should undergo penectomy, while clinically negative groins can be kept on surveillance. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy should be avoided and adjuvant therapy should be deferred. We need to tailor our treatment strategies to the prevailing present conditions, so as to fight and defeat both, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and cancer. Protection of health care workers, judicious use of available resources, and a rational and balanced outlook towards different malignancies is the need of the hour.