Invasive breast Cancer treatment in Tanzania: landscape assessment to prepare for implementation of standardized treatment guidelines

Incidence of breast cancer continues to rise in low- and middle-income countries, with data from the East African country of Tanzania predicting an 82% increase in breast cancer from 2017 to 2030. We aimed to characterize treatment pathways, receipt of therapies, and identify high-value interventions to increase concordance with international guidelines and avert unnecessary breast cancer deaths.

Primary data were extracted from medical charts of patients presenting to Bugando Medical Center, Tanzania, with breast concerns and suspected to have breast cancer. Clinicopathologic features were summarized with descriptive statistics. A Poisson model was utilized to estimate prevalence ratios for variables predicted to affect receipt of life-saving adjuvant therapies and completion of therapies. International and Tanzanian guidelines were compared to current care patterns in the domains of lymph node evaluation, metastases evaluation, histopathological diagnosis, and receptor testing to yield concordance scores and suggest future areas of focus.

We identified 164 patients treated for suspected breast cancer from April 2015–January 2019. Women were predominantly post-menopausal (43%) and without documented insurance (70%). Those with a confirmed histopathology diagnosis (69%) were 3 times more likely to receive adjuvant therapy (PrR [95% CI]: 3.0 [1.7–5.4]) and those documented to have insurance were 1.8 times more likely to complete adjuvant therapy (1.8 [1.0–3.2]). Out of 164 patients, 4% (n = 7) received concordant care based on the four evaluated management domains. The first most common reason for non-concordance was lack of hormone receptor testing as 91% (n = 144) of cases did not undergo this testing. The next reason was lack of lymph node evaluation (44% without axillary staging) followed by absence of abdominopelvic imaging in those with symptoms (35%) and lack of histopathological confirmation (31%).

Patient-specific clinical data from Tanzania show limitations of current breast cancer management including axillary staging, receipt of formal diagnosis, lack of predictive biomarker testing, and low rates of adjuvant therapy completion. These findings highlight the need to adapt and adopt interventions to increase concordance with guidelines including improving capacity for pathology, developing complete staging pathways, and ensuring completion of prescribed adjuvant therapies.