Patient Characteristics, Early Outcomes, and Implementation Lessons of Cervical Cancer Treatment Services in Rural Rwanda

J Glob Oncol. 2018 Dec:4:1-11. doi: 10.1200/JGO.18.00120.


Purpose: Low- and middle-income countries account for 86% of all cervical cancer cases and 88% of cervical cancer mortality globally. Successful management of cervical cancer requires resources that are scarce in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in rural settings. Here, we describe the early clinical outcomes and implementation lessons learned from the Rwanda Ministry of Health's first national cancer referral center, the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE). We hypothesize that those patients presenting at earlier stage and receiving treatment will have higher rates of being alive.

Methods: The implementation of cervical cancer services included developing partnerships, clinical protocols, pathology services, and tools for monitoring and evaluation. We conducted a retrospective study of patients with cervical cancer who presented at BCCOE between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2015. Data were collected from the electronic medical record system and by manually reviewing medical records. Descriptive, bivariable and multivariable statistical analyses were conducted to describe patient demographics, disease profiles, treatment, and clinical outcomes.

Results: In all, 373 patients met the study inclusion criteria. The median age was 53 years (interquartile rage, 45 to 60 years), and 98% were residents of Rwanda. Eighty-nine percent of patients had a documented disease stage: 3% were stage I, 48% were stage II, 29% were stage III, and 8% were stage IV at presentation. Fifty percent of patients were planned to be treated with a curative intent, and 54% were referred to chemoradiotherapy in Uganda. Forty percent of patients who received chemoradiotherapy were in remission. Overall, 25% were lost to follow-up.

Conclusion: BCCOE illustrates the feasibility and challenges of implementing effective cervical cancer treatment services in a rural setting in a low-income country.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Rwanda
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / therapy*