Purpose: In low- and middle-income countries, there has been an exponential increase in cancer incidence. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the biggest gap in radiotherapy availability and need is in Nigeria, where each machine serves an estimated 25.7 million people. This study aimed to characterize the barriers to radiotherapy and to identify areas for intervention.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study conducted at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria, from June 2017 to August 2017. Demographic, sociocultural, and infrastructural factors relating to radiotherapy were collected through a questionnaire (N = 186). Ordinal logistic regression was used to identify the factors leading to delays in referral and delays in treatment initiation.
Results: Patients traveled from 20 of Nigeria's 36 states. The median age was 50 years (range, 19-79 years). The most common cancers treated were breast (37.5%), cervical (16.3%), head and neck (11.9%), and prostate (10.9%). In ordinal logistic regression, sociocultural factors, including the inability to pay (odds ratio [OR], 1.99; P = .034), a bad hospital experience (OR, 7.05; P = .001), and travel time (OR, 1.36; P = .001), increased the odds of referral delay to radiotherapy. In contrast, there was no significant relationship between time to treatment initiation and sociocultural factors including age, education, and inability to pay. Infrastructural barriers, including machine breakdown (OR, 2.92; P = .001), worker strikes (OR, 2.64; P = .001), and power outages (OR, 2.81; P = .022), increased the odds of treatment delay.
Conclusion: Although delays caused by patient factors are reported extensively, patients overcame these barriers in the hopes of curative treatment. However, staff and equipment malfunctions prevented patients from receiving timely radiotherapy. Policies aimed at addressing machine maintenance, health care worker satisfaction, and the aging power grid in Nigeria must be implemented in the future to strengthen the health care system to care for patients with cancer.