Effectiveness of interventions for improving timely diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers in low and middle-income countries: a systematic review protocol

Breast and cervical cancers pose a major public health burden globally, with disproportionately high incidence, morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The majority of women diagnosed with cancer in LMICs present with late-stage disease, the treatment of which is often costlier and less effective. While interventions to improve the timely diagnosis of these cancers are increasingly being implemented in LMICs, there is uncertainty about their role and effectiveness. The aim of this review is to systematically synthesise available evidence on the nature and effectiveness of interventions for improving timely diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers in LMICs.

Methods and analysis
A comprehensive search of published and relevant grey literature will be conducted. The following electronic databases will be searched: MEDLINE (via PubMed), Cochrane Library, Scopus, CINAHL, Web of Science and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). Evidence will be synthesised in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Two reviewers will independently screen the search outputs, select studies using predefined inclusion criteria and assess each included study for risk of bias. If sufficient data are available and studies are comparable in terms of interventions and outcomes, a meta-analysis will be conducted. Where studies are not comparable and a meta-analysis is not appropriate, a narrative synthesis of findings will be reported.

Ethics and dissemination
As this will be a systematic review of publicly available data, with no primary data collection, it will not require ethical approval. Findings will be disseminated widely through a peer-reviewed publication and forums such as conferences, workshops and community engagement sessions. This review will provide a user-friendly evidence summary for informing further efforts at developing and implementing interventions for addressing delays in breast and cervical cancer diagnosis in LMICs.

Sword of Damocles: application of the ethical principles of resource allocation to essential cancer surgery patients requiring beds in limited supply during the COVID-19 pandemic

As a surge of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients strains the health care systems, shortages of health care professionals and life-saving equipment such as ventilators are forcing hospitals to make difficult decisions [1, 2]. It is critical that these health care systems consider whether non-essential surgical procedures can be delayed to ration medical equipment and interventions. Theatre list shortages occur for many reasons, including lack of beds, lack of ventilators, lack of anaesthetic staff, lack of surgical staff, lack of nursing staff and material shortages (e.g. personal protective equipment). Contributing to resource scarcity is the prolonged intubation many COVID-19 patients require as they recover from pneumonia, often two to three weeks, with several hours spent in the prone position and then, typically, a very slow weaning. During shortages, health care systems must determine how to fairly distribute these scarce resources to patients. Unfortunately, no single distribution framework applies to all shortages. However, general allocation principles for scarce health care resources, grounded in distributive justice and utility, can be applied, although particular rules will differ depending on the circumstances.