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Background: It has been estimated that, more than 60% of the new breast cancer cases and 70% of related deaths will be seen in Low-Middle Income Countries in the coming 20 years. In Lesotho, out of 228 women, 177 had heard about breast cancer while 72.9% had heard of breast cancer screening. Given limited treatment facilities and options in Lesotho, many patients die soon after diagnosis, before they are able to access treatment; to date this cannot be quantified. Another challenge that affects breast cancer management is treatment and travel-related costs, particularly for those not living close to the medical centre. Most patients are coming with advanced disease stage and are sent home for home-based care, some of which could have been prevented with early screening.
Aim: The aim of study is to determine challenges faced by breast cancer patients, the cost to the health system and the opportunities this may bring to the country.
Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional, prospective and retrospective study was conducted on 45 breast cancer patients who were initiated chemotherapy at the only cancer treatment centre in Lesotho; Senkatana oncology clinic located at the Botshabelo complex in Maseru.
Results: The majority of patients were facing challenges of arranging transport to the doctor (83.3%, n=15), of being far from the healthcare facilities even if transportation was available (77.8%, n=14), paying for healthcare (83.3%, n=15), paying for transport (77.8%, n=14) and paying for diagnostic test (88.9%, n=16) in all ages. Majority of patients who presented for care and treatment late faced challenges more than those who presented earlier. Diagnostic and monitoring laboratory test constituted 64.5% of total direct medical costs followed by 24.7 % from chemotherapy.
Conclusion: The challenges faced by breast cancer patients are of financial and practical nature and they get higher for patients who presented at advanced stage for care and treatment. In order to improve breast cancer care and treatment outcome at lower costs efforts for breast cancer awareness need to be intensified so that patients presented early at the health centers. In term of direct medical cost, the largest cost came from the diagnostic and monitoring laboratory tests.
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