Advancing breast cancer in the developing world: Challenges in Zimbabwe

BJMO - volume 17, issue 7, november 2023

R. Rainsbury , M. Magara , On behalf of the United Bulawayo Hospitals and Association of Breast Surgery Matabeleland South Breast Cancer Project Partnership


Breast cancer has become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women living in Africa. Women in Zimbabwe experience some of the worst outcomes. A study of more than 1,400 Matabeleland South Province and Bulawayo City residents investigated the reasons for this shocking situation. This involved women and their families, health professionals, specialists, patient representatives, and other stakeholders. The study disclosed a range of reasons for major delays at every stage of the diagnostic pathway. Women and families delayed seeking help because of ignorance, lack of trust and the high cost of treatment. Health practitioners delayed referring patients because of a lack of training skills and confidence. Central hospitals postponed treatment because of a lack of specialisation and skills, and over-centralisation. In conclusion, many factors delay the presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer in Zimbabwe. These factors are being addressed by the phased implementation of a programme prioritising training, new diagnostic skills, and resource-appropriate service reconfiguration, backed up by data collection, audit and public awareness initiatives.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2023;17(7):259–63)

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