Routes to diagnosis of symptomatic cancer in sub-Saharan Africa: systematic review
BackgroundMost cancers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are diagnosed at advanced stages, with limited treatment options and poor outcomes. Part of this may be linked to various events occurring in patients' journey to diagnosis. Using the model of pathways to treatment, we examined the evidence regarding the routes to cancer diagnosis in SSA.Design and settingsA systematic review of available literature was performed.MethodsThe Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
... Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed. Between 30 September and 30 November 2019, seven electronic databases were searched using terms relating to SSA countries, cancer and routes to diagnosis comprising the population, exposure and outcomes, respectively. Citation lists of included studies were manually searched to identify relevant studies. Furthermore, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global was searched to identify appropriate grey literature on the subject.Results18 of 5083 references identified met the inclusion criteria: eight focused on breast cancer; three focused on cervical cancer; two each focused on lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma and childhood cancers; and one focused on colorectal cancer. With the exception of Kaposi's sarcoma, definitive diagnoses were made in tertiary healthcare centres, including teaching and regional hospitals. The majority of participants initially consulted within primary care, although a considerable proportion first used complementary medicine before seeking conventional medical help. The quality of included studies was a major concern, but their findings provided important insight into the pathways to cancer diagnosis in the region.ConclusionThe proportion of patients who initially use complementary medicine in their cancer journey may explain a fraction of advanced-stage diagnosis and poor survival of cancer in SSA. However, further research would be necessary to fully understand the exact role (or activities) of primary care and alternative care providers in patient cancer journeys.