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Characterising cancer burden and quality of care at two palliative care clinics in Malawi

Victoria Mukhula
Daisy Sibale
Lubna Tarmahomed
Charles Dzamalala
Kelias Msyamboza
Steady Chasimpha


Background: This paper describes cancer burden and compares characteristics of cancer patients enrolled at 2 palliative care facilities of contrasting resources and geographical locations in Malawi. It also assesses the extent of differences in service delivery and the impact these might have on outcomes.

Methods: Data on all cancer patients registered between October 2010 and October 2015 at Tiyanjane Clinic (at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre) and Mzuzu Central Hospital (MCH) palliative care clinics were extracted and analysed. Key informant in-depth interviews were carried out at both sites. Thematic analysis was used for qualitative data and Excel 2010 and Stata 12 were used for analysis of quantitative data.

Results: Quantitative: There were 1362 and 633 cancer patients at Tiyanjane and MCH, respectively. Overall, females predominated over males (55.8% vs 42.8%); however, Tiyanjane had more males (52.2% vs 45.8%), which was contrary to Mzuzu (77.4% females vs 22.6% males). The 35- to 54-year age group was predominant at both Tiyanjane (43.1%) and Mzuzu (40.1%). Overall, the most common cancers were Kaposi’s sarcoma (26.9%), cervical cancer (26.8%), oesophageal cancer (14.2%), hepatocellular carcinoma (4.9%), and bladder cancer (3.0%). Histologically confirmed diagnoses accounted for 13% of cases at Tiyanjane, whereas all patients from MCH were diagnosed clinically.

Qualitative: Palliative care services were free of charge at both facilities, and owing to the expansion of services to district hospitals, the workload at central hospitals had been reduced. Between the 2 sites, there were differences in follow-up procedures, drug availabilities, as well as human resource capacity, with Mzuzu palliative care facility facing more extensive challenges.

Conclusions: The characteristics of patients seen at each site varied according to services available. Quality of care was assessed as superior at Tiyanjane, demonstrating the importance of multiple stakeholder involvement in the delivery of palliative care services.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7270