Treatment Delays in Children and Young Adults with Lymphoma: report from an East Africa Lymphoma Cohort Study
Mawalla WF., Morrell L., Chirande LF., Achola C., Mwamtemi H., Sandi GW., Mahawi SO., Kahakwa AK., Ntemi P., Hadijah N., Mkwizu E., Chamba CC., Vavoulis DV., Schuh A.
Background:Affordable treatments for lymphoma from the WHO's essential medicine list are available in low-income settings. However, precise diagnosis is often lacking and prolonged time to diagnosis and treatment results in poor treatment outcomes. So far, a detailed analysis of the root causes of the treatment delay is lacking. Methods:This prospective cohort study was conducted at three tertiary cancer hospitals in Tanzania and one cancer centre, St. Mary's Hospital-Lacor Hospital, in Northern Uganda. The study included patients with a confirmed diagnosis of lymphoma. The primary outcome was the median total treatment delay and its components. Total treatment delay was defined as the time taken from the onset of symptoms to receiving definitive cancer treatment. Results:The median age of patients was 12 years (IQR 9-18), and 100 (68%) were males. The median Total Treatment Delay for the entire cohort was 124 days (95% CI 107 - 136). Not started treatment probability for the entire cohort was 64% (95% CI 56-72) at 90 days and 30% (24 - 39) at 180 days. The median Total Treatment Delay for Burkitt lymphoma was 91 days (95% CI 80 - 115), while for DLBCL and Hodgkin lymphoma, it was 114 days (95% CI 84 - 148) and 232 days (95% CI 179 - 305), respectively. Conclusion: Significant treatment delay for lymphoma patients emanates from healthcare system-related factors. Due to delays in referrals from primary care and lack of capacity of pathology in secondary care, initial treatment decisions are still often based on clinical suspicion and urgency.