Breast Cancer Screening Added To KCMC’s Screening And Earlier Diagnostic Efforts

By Randy Hurley MD, cTropMed
HealthPartners and Regions Hospital Cancer Care Centers
Global Health Faculty, University of Minnesota
January 18, 2023

Breast Cancer Screening Added To KCMC’s Screening And Earlier Diagnostic Efforts

In an earlier newsletter I shared the news that the Cancer Care Centre at KCMC had received a grant to develop cervical cancer screening capacity at district hospitals in the Kilimanjaro Region.  All research points to screening and earlier diagnosis as a key to better outcomes for cancer sufferers.

KCMC’s latest effort to expand cancer awareness and screening focuses on breast cancer.  Often, Tanzanian medical professionals are not familiar with cancer and although they may see a patient with breast cancer symptoms, they do not make a correct diagnosis.  KCMC plans to address this challenge through a course aimed at medical professionals.  The course is designed to equip Tanzanian medical professionals with the necessary knowledge, attitude, and clinical skills to efficiently diagnose breast cancer and distinguish it from other benign breast pathologies.  This course is being organized by Dr. Marianne Gnanamuttupulle, a surgeon on staff at KCMC.

In addition to clinical skills, participants in this 5-day course are expected to gain confidence to advocate for the importance of self-breast examination and to effectively communicate with other health care providers, patients, and their families.  This includes breaking bad news, responding to their psychological and physiological concerns regarding a breast cancer diagnosis and discussing their appropriate treatment plan.

Worldwide, in 2020 breast cancer in women surpassed lung cancer as the most diagnosed cancer with an estimated 2.3 million new cases and making breast cancer the 5th leading cause of cancer related deaths globally.  Deaths related to breast cancer are higher in low-income countries.  The global cancer burden is expected to increase by 64% to 95% in low-income countries due to demographic changes and increased risk factors associated with globalization and economic growth.

In Tanzania, breast cancer is the second most common cancer representing 14.4% of new cancers and is the second leading cause of cancer mortality among women.  The number of new breast cancer cases is projected to increase by 82 % by 2030.  Projections for breast cancer deaths follow the same pattern, with an increase of 80% in breast cancer deaths by 2030.  In Tanzania, approximately 80% of women are diagnosed with advance stage (III or IV) breast cancer due to limited availability of screening programs, late presentation, poor access to treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy.  This means treatment is less effective and outcomes are poor, which leads to higher morbidity and mortality.

Prevention can help reduce the devasting effect of breast cancer in low-income countries; however, early detection of this malignancy remains the cornerstone in breast cancer control improving both outcome and survival.

Warmest regards,
Hazel Reinhardt