Purpose: Feasible and effective strategies are needed to facilitate earlier diagnosis of breast cancer in low-income countries. The goal of this study was to examine the impact of health worker breast health training on health care utilization, patient diagnoses, and cancer stage in a rural Rwandan district.
Methods: We conducted a cluster randomized trial of a training intervention at 12 of the 19 health centers (HCs) in Burera District, Rwanda, in 2 phases. We evaluated the trainings' impact on the volume of patient visits for breast concerns using difference-in-difference models. We used generalized estimating equations to evaluate incidence of HC and hospital visits for breast concerns, biopsies, benign breast diagnoses, breast cancer, and early-stage disease in catchment areas served by intervention versus control HCs.
Results: From April 2015 to April 2017, 1,484 patients visited intervention HCs, and 308 visited control HCs for breast concerns. The intervention led to an increase of 4.7 visits/month for phase 1 HCs (P = .001) and 7.9 visits/month for phase 2 HCs (P = .007) compared with control HCs. The population served by intervention HCs had more hospital visits (115.1 v 20.5/100,000 person-years, P < .001) and biopsies (36.6 v 8.9/100,000 person-years, P < .001) and higher breast cancer incidence (6.9 v 3.3/100,000 person-years; P = .28). The incidence of early-stage breast cancer was 3.3 per 100,000 in intervention areas and 0.7 per 100,000 in control areas (P = .048).
Conclusion: In this cluster randomized trial in rural Rwanda, the training of health workers and establishment of regular breast clinics were associated with increased numbers of patients who presented with breast concerns at health facilities, more breast biopsies, and a higher incidence of benign breast diagnoses and early-stage breast cancers.