BMC Cancer (2018-06-01)

Pregnancy-associated breast cancer in rural Rwanda: the experience of the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence

  • Jean Marie Vianney Dusengimana,
  • Vedaste Hategekimana,
  • Ryan Borg,
  • Bethany Hedt-Gauthier,
  • Neil Gupta,
  • Susan Troyan,
  • Lawrence N. Shulman,
  • Ignace Nzayisenga,
  • Temidayo Fadelu,
  • Tharcisse Mpunga,
  • Lydia E. Pace

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 1
pp. 1 – 8


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Abstract Background Breast cancer is the most common malignancy encountered during pregnancy. However, the burden of pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) and subsequent care is understudied in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Here, we describe the characteristics, diagnostic delays and treatment of women with PABC seeking care at a rural cancer referral facility in Rwanda. Methods Data from female patients aged 18–50 years with pathologically confirmed breast cancer who presented for treatment between July 1, 2012 and February 28, 2014 were retrospectively reviewed. PABC was defined as breast cancer diagnosed in a woman who was pregnant or breastfeeding. Numbers and frequencies are reported for demographic and diagnostic delay variables and Wilcoxon rank sum and Fisher’s exact tests are used to compare characteristics of women with PABC to women with non-PABC at the alpha = 0.05 significance level. Treatment and outcomes are described for women with PABC only. Results Of the 117 women with breast cancer, 12 (10.3%) had PABC based on medical record review. The only significant demographic differences were that women with PABC were younger (p = 0.006) and more likely to be married (p = 0.035) compared to women with non-PABC. There were no significant differences in diagnostic delays or stage at diagnosis between women with PABC and women with non-PABC women. Eleven of the women with PABC received treatment, three had documented treatment delays or modifications due to their pregnancy or breastfeeding, and four stopped breastfeeding to initiate treatment. At the end of the study period, six patients were alive, three were deceased and three patients were lost to follow-up. Conclusions PABC was relatively common in our cohort but may have been underreported. Although patients with PABC did not experience greater diagnostic delays, most had treatment modifications, emphasizing the potential value of PABC-specific treatment protocols in SSA. Larger prospective studies of PABC are needed to better understand particular challenges faced by these patients and inform policies and practices to optimize care for women with PABC in Rwanda and similar settings.