Breast cancer in a teenage girl with BRCA mutation: A case report from a low middle-income country

A staggering majority of pediatric breast masses are benign (mostly fibroadenoma) and so a biopsy is not readily performed as it can potentially lead to a future breast disfigurement. However, this should not be standard practice as this can lead to a delayed diagnosis, and hence, the treatment of pediatric breast cancer (BC); this was also seen in our patient’s scenario.

Case history
Here, we report the case of the youngest known breast cancer patient in Pakistan, a 15-year-old girl. The right-sided breast lump which was diagnosed clinically as a fibroadenoma later turned out to be stage IIb pT3N0M0 metaplastic breast carcinoma with BRCA1 positivity and mutations in SMARCA4. Being young and unmarried, the patient and her family decided to opt for breast-conserving surgery with high-risk surveillance for breast and ovaries.

We believe that prophylactic surgeries can be delayed with strict surveillance and thorough counseling. As pediatric BC is linked to a less favorable prognosis, every young patient diagnosed with breast cancer and their family should undergo genetic testing. BC management should be handled by specialists in the field and doctors should be trained for initial diagnostics and timely referral of patients.

It is important to improve our understanding of genetic predisposition and testing in lower-middle-income countries. Considering the changing global trends, we suggest that the utilization of genetic services is direly needed to improve preventative care for at-risk individuals with breast and other cancers.

Breast Cancer in Asia: Incidence, Mortality, Early Detection, Mammography Programmes, and Risk-based Screening Initiatives

Close to half (45.4%) of 2.3 million breast cancers (BC) diagnosed in 2020 were from Asia. While the burden of breast cancer has been examined on the level of broad geographic regions, literature on more in-depth coverage of the individual countries and subregions of the Asian continent is lacking. This review examines the breast cancer burden in 47 Asian countries. Breast cancer screening guidelines and risk-based screening initiatives are discussed.

Contextualizing policy implementation, challenges, and plans for improving breast cancer early detection programs in Indonesia

Late-stage breast cancer (BC) is commonly diagnosed in limited-resource countries such as Indonesia. The lack of information for decision-making emphasizes the need for efforts to support evidence-informed practice for improving BC early detection in Indonesia. This study attempts to understand the local context evidence on policy implementation, challenges, and plans for enhancing BC early detection programs in Indonesia. The evidence gained from this study will help harness the power of scientific reasoning that shapes theories of how BC early detection intervention works and its operationalization in practice.

This study engaged three interrelated phases of qualitative methods. Phase I involved a document analysis in determining the predominant strategy and approach to the landscape of BC early detection programs. Phase II was an in-depth interview to clarify the operationalization of the technical aspect, eliciting stakeholder experiences and their perceptions about the factors supporting or hindering goal achievement. In phase III, two consecutive collaborative expert workshops and a collaborative learning process nested with the Indonesia Project ECHO team for Knowledge Summaries for Comprehensive Breast Cancer Control.

Current BC early detection strategies to downstage women’s symptomatic breast abnormalities are considered an essential preparatory step before starting a screening program at the enhanced or maximal level of resources. However, the absence of an integrated cancer registry system renders it impossible to measure the full effect of the program implementation as a public health policy. Emphasis on improving structural barriers during the follow-up of abnormalities, patient navigation for referrals, and a surveillance system to track the times from presentation to diagnosis and diagnosis to treatment is needed for Indonesia’s early detection services continuum.

The local context presented in this research increased the usability and usefulness of relevant evidence for decision-makers, thus bridging the gap in translating research findings into healthcare practice for BC early detection in Indonesia. Importantly, attention to providing a clear national guideline, developing a highly interoperable screening registry system, and ensuring the sustainability of pilot sites on mammography screening is critical to the success of expected outcomes.

Improvements in Child Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment in Africa

In Africa, more than 50% of cases of childhood cancer go undiagnosed. Africa accounts for 146,000 of the projected 397,000 new cases globally per year (including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases) (Ward et al, 2019a). Of the diagnosed cases, only 11.6% of children in Africa survive (Ward et al, 2019b). Based on the above modeling exercise, we estimate that only about one-third of those who are diagnosed actually receive treatment; no hard data are available. Increasing access to treatment will increase survival, although to reach survival rates comparable to high income countries, investments will also be needed to decrease treatment abandonment and improve quality of treatment (Ward et al, 2019b).We recommend investing to expand treatment of five key cancers that are both treatable and affordable. These five cancers together account
for 40% of the burden of childhood cancer in Africa. Studies of cost per child treated in subSaharan Africa for three of the conditions (Burkitt lymphoma, nephroblastoma and earlystage retinoblastoma) were $1248, $1976 and $2202 USD respectively in various low- and lower-middle income countries in Africa. More conservatively, costs of a comprehensive cancer centre in one African country which achieved a projected 5-year survival rate of 35% for a cohort of children with multiple cancer types, were around $10,000 per child in 2018 USD, or around 6.5 times per capita GNI (see text below for all study references).
Benefit:cost ratios were estimated as 9.1 to 19.3 for the three diseases for which studies were available, and a more conservative 5.2:1 for a comprehensive centre which treats not only the priority diseases, but also provides treatment for other less-treatable conditions and palliative care to children for whom cure is not possible. Ratios would be a little lower (4.6:1) but still very attractive if indirect costs to families were included in treatment costs, and higher if non-profit organizations took the lead in small investments to reduce treatment abandonment rates, as has been done successfully in a number of low- and middleincome country (LMIC) contexts.
Expanding care from the estimated one-third of those diagnosed to all those currently diagnosed would cost $407m using the comprehensive cancer centre model. This amount would double, if 90% coverage of were attained (i.e. if 80% of all undiagnosed children could be diagnosed and linked to treatment). The value of the benefits would however be an estimated 5.2 times the costs, or $2116m. There are other potential unquantifiable benefits, such as helping to show that cancer is indeed curable and helping reduce the stigma associated with cancer in Africa, potentially leading adults with cancer to seek care earlier and improve their survival. In addition, improving capabilities to treat childhood cancers has the potential to strengthen health systems more broadly, by developing radiologic and pathologic services, medicines procurement and supply management, surgical facilities, health human resource training and retention, and supportive care capacities.

Adopting Health Economic Research in Radiation Oncology: A Perspective From Low- or Middle-Income Countries

Establishing a new radiation therapy (RT) setup is resource-intensive as it involves substantial capital costs and the recruitment of a skilled workforce. It is essential to incorporate health economic analysis that estimates recurring and nonrecurring expenses on the basis of the national and local needs, infrastructure, and future projections. RT costing exercises can be especially relevant for low- or middle-income countries (LMICs) with more than 70% of the global cancer burden, with access to < 20% of the available resources. This review article summarizes the scope of RT costing exercises in LMICs, the hurdles in conducting them, and possible ways to circumvent them. The purpose of performing costing studies in RT lies in their utility to improve the efficiency of the investment while at the same time helping to address the issues of uniformity and equitable distribution of resources. This will help assess the net benefit from RT in terms of utility and outcome-linked parameters like Quality-Adjusted Life Years. There are numerous barriers to conducting economic evaluations in LMICs, including the lack of national costing values for equipment, data on manpower salary, cost for public and private setups, and indirect costs. The situation is further complicated because of the nonuniform pay structure, lack of an organizational framework, robust real-world data on outcomes, and nonavailability of country-specific reference utility values. Collaborative national efforts are required to collect all elements required to perform health technology assessments. Information from the national and hospital databases can be made available in the public domain to ease access and broader adoption of health economic end points in routine care. Although resource-intensive at the onset, costing studies and health economic assessments are essential for improving the coverage and quality of RT in LMICs.

Modern Radiotherapy Technology: Obstacles and Opportunities to Access in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have a large burden of cancer with differential population needs and outcomes compared to high-income countries. Access to radiotherapy, especially modern technology, is a major challenge. Modern radiotherapy has been demonstrated with better utility in overall cancer outcomes. We deliberate various challenges and opportunities unique to LMICs’ set up for access to modern radiotherapy technology in the light of discussions and deliberations made during the recently concluded annual meeting of Tata Memorial Centre, India. We take examples available from various LMICs in this direction in our manuscript.

GLOBOCAN 2020 Report on Global Cancer Burden: Challenges and Opportunities for Surgical Oncologists

Cancer is emerging as a major public health challenge globally. Recently, IARC (International Association of Research on Cancer) published global cancer burden using GLOBOCAN 2020 estimates for 36 cancers in 185 countries of the world. As per the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, cancer is the first or second leading cause of death in 112 of 183 countries. The major takeaways of the GLOBOCAN 2020 report relevant to the surgical oncology community include the rising global burden of cancer, global disparity in cancer incidence and mortality in different geographic regions, and the impact of the human development index (HDI) on cancer incidence and projected global cancer burden by 2040. In this article, we discuss the implications of the GLOBOCAN report on future global cancer control strategies and the role of surgical oncologists in the fight against cancer.

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.

EMR adoption in Dhaka, Bangladesh: a template to index pediatric central nervous system tumor care and a review of preliminary neuro-oncologic observations

To describe the design, implementation, and adoption of a simplified electronic medical record (EMR) and its use in documenting pediatric central nervous system (CNS) tumors at a tertiary care referral hospital in South-East Asia.

A novel EMR, cataloguing pediatric CNS tumors was used to collect data from August 2017 to March 2020 at National Institute of Neurosciences and Hospital (NINS&H) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Two hundred forty-nine pediatric patients with a CNS tumor were admitted to NINS&H. Fifty-eight percent of patients were male, and the median age was 8 years. A total of 188/249 patients (76%) underwent surgery during their index admission. Radiographic locations were known for 212/249 (85%) of cases; the most common radiographic locations were infratentorial (81/212; 38%), suprasellar (45/212; 21%), and supratentorial (29/212; 14%). A histopathological classification was reported on 156/249 (63%) of patients’ cytology. The most common infratentorial pathologies were medulloblastoma (22/47; 47%) and pilocytic astrocytoma (14/47; 30%). The median time between admission and surgery was 36 days, while the median post-operation stay was 19.5 days.

The feasibility of a basic EMR platform for a busy pediatric neurosurgery department in a lower-middle income country is demonstrated, and preliminary clinical data is reviewed. A wide variety of pediatric CNS tumors were observed, spanning the spectrum of anatomic locations and histopathologic subtypes. Surgical intervention was performed for the majority of patients. Barriers to care include limited molecular diagnostics and unavailable data on adjuvant therapy. Future targets include improvement of clinical documentation in the pre-operative and post-operative period.

Program Planning to Develop Infrastructure for Cancer Care in Liberia

Liberia’s health infrastructure was completely devastated after 14 years of back-to-back civil war. Postconflict rebuilding of the country’s health workforce and infrastructure has become a priority. Initially, the focus was on the diagnosis and treatment of communicable diseases that caused multigenerational family losses. With the increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases, however, the country has turned its attention to addressing diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, with the development of the noncommunicable disease unit under the Ministry of Health. Recovering from another setback caused by the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the country assembled a diverse group of stakeholders to form Liberia’s first National Cancer Committee. To structure a program that would address the increasing burden of cervical and breast cancers, the major cause of mortality among reproductive-aged women in Liberia, input from the International Atomic Energy Agency was critical. This article describes the preplanning activities for developing infrastructure to support cancer care in Liberia that occurred between 2013 and 2020 and is still ongoing. This case study is intended to serve as a planning guide for countries with limited resources as they work toward the goal of eliminating cervical cancer and developing infrastructure to address their country’s burden of all cancers.