Identifying Barriers in Access to Care for Head and Neck Cancer Patients: A Field Study in Dakar

Laryngoscope. 2021 Nov 26. doi: 10.1002/lary.29963. Online ahead of print.


Objectives/hypothesis: To identify barriers in access to care for head and neck cancer (H&NC) patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), specifically within Dakar, Senegal, using both quantitative and qualitative data.

Study design: Descriptive observational study.

Methods: Patients with H&NC were selected from two independent university hospitals in Dakar, Senegal. A mixed-methods descriptive study was performed using a specifically tailored questionnaire and a focused ethnographic qualitative approach to identify factors that delay patient presentation, referral, and treatment. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and qualitative using a deductive approach based on a systematic review of the literature.

Results: Thirty-three patients with a mean age of 57.8 years were included. Presentation delay was 5.7 months, mainly attributed to cost of consultation (39%), waiting time at doctor's office (15%), and distance to healthcare facility (12%). Referral delay greater than 3 months was observed in 60% of participants, secondary to misdiagnosis and lack of appropriate referral. Treatment delay was associated with limited local treatment capacity and securing cost of treatment. Cost of transportation impacted all delays.

Conclusions: This work used an evidence-based approach to identify barriers in access to care for H&NC patients in sub-Saharan Africa. It suggests the feasibility and transferability of this methodology which combined a quantitative approach based on the literature with a qualitative analysis. Insight provided by this study will be used to guide development of implementation strategies for early detection of H&NC in LMICs.

Level of evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 2021.

Keywords: Head and neck cancer; global ENT; low- and middle-income countries.