Breast Cancer Health in Africa: Highlights from AORTIC 2021 Abstracts

“AORTICʼs mission is to transform cancer control in Africa through collaboration in education, research, and the delivery of equitable and timely interventions to minimise the impact of cancer.”

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The 13th  African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) International Conference on Cancer in Africa will take place virtually from November 5 -10 2021, bringing together multidisciplinary specialists from the global cancer community to discuss the Science of Cancer in Africa. In a series of blogs, we will highlight some of the cancer research that will be highlighted during the conference.

 Breast Cancer

 Breast cancer impacts millions of Africans, and the prevalence and mortality rate has been increasing over time. Dr. Rwamuza and colleagues interviewed women from Rwamagana and Rubavu to examine their experiences throughout the breast cancer diagnostic pathway. The analysis of their study, “Understanding women’s experiences navigating a Breast Cancer Early Detection Program in 2 Rural Districts of Rwanda” demonstrated that women were experiencing a decreased understanding of recommendations given by providers, longer wait times, higher costs, and increased anxiety as they progressed to more advance levels of care after their diagnosis.

 Dr. Lewy and colleagues examined accessibility of multimodality treatment for breast cancer in Botswana to estimate annual treatment initiation incidence by health districts and the effect of initial presentation to a clinic along the populated A1 highway corridor in Botswana. In their study, “Breast Cancer Treatment Access Disparity in Botswana,” It was found that existing disparities exist regarding access to care, particularly for women seeking treatment at clinics outside developed transportation networks.

 Miss Mahtaab Hayat and colleagues study, entitled “The Contribution of Common Genetic Variants to Breast Cancer Risk in South African Black Populations” tested DNA samples which were genotyped and contained markers  enriched for variants common in African populations. They note that “after imputation, quality control and population substructure correction, 13 million SNPs were tested for association with BC in 2,557 cases and 1,074 female controls using linear-mix model regression analysis with the Genome-wide Efficient Mixed Model Association (GEMMA) software.” As the first genome-wide association study of breast cancer patients in Africa, the team’s findings revealed  significant genetic associations with breast cancer detected in South African Black women.

 In the study “Clinical, pathological, and therapeutic characterization of Breast Cancer Patients Diagnosed at Hospital Agostinho Neto, Cape Verde from 2015 to 2021”, Dr. Borges and colleagues examined data from 167 women and 4 men to understand the profile of breast cancer patients that were diagnosed. They found that most patients (99%) had breast cancer histological confirmation, and among those 87% were invasive ductal carcinoma. Laminal A and triple-negative breast cancer were the most frequently occurring subtypes, and treatments often involved surgery and chemotherapy. The majority of patients (99%) survived beyond 40 months.

Finally, Prof Papa Macoumba and colleagues examined “Évolution du profil de patients traités en radiothérapie avec le passage de la radiothérapie bidimensionnelle à la tridimensionnelle au Sénégal” and found there there is a need for better technical platforms as patients are treated with radiotherapy from 2D to 3D models in Senegal in public hospitals.

 The Global Cancer Observatory (GCO), estimates breast cancer incidence and mortality rates to increasing rapidly, almost doubling by 2040, as indicated in the graphic below.

As indicated through the above abstracts, and looking at future trend data, is more important now than ever to address the potential impact breast cancer research can have on the population and continue to strive towards increasing access, technology, multimodality treatment and early detection.

Dr. Salinas is a behavioral scientist with a focus on health disparities research and public health. Her doctoral training was in health promotion and community health science from Texas A&M University. She is currently a Research Fellow at Mayo Clinic and works within the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, as well as the Department of Hematology and Oncology. Her research has focuses on improving health promotion strategies to underrepresented populations through community-based approaches, addressing disparities and advocating for health equity through translational science. (Twitter: @DrManishaS)

Dr. Hamid Olanipekun is a urologist with a special interest in urological oncology particularly prostate, bladder, and kidney cancers. He had his first degree in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) at the University of Ilorin and later had post-graduate residency training in Urology and was awarded the Fellowship of West African College of Surgeons (FWACS Urol).  He is also a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS), currently undergoing post-fellowship training in endo-urology at the prestigious Royal Berkshire Hospital in the United Kingdom. Dr. Olanipekun is a  master scholar of African Behavioural Research (ABER) and had training in Health Disparities and Community Engagement Research. His research focus is reducing the morbidity and mortality of prostate cancer and bladder cancer in LMIC using the community engagement research approach.

Manisha Salinas

Research Fellow, Mayo Clinic