Barriers to Cancer Care in Northern Tanzania: Patient and Health-System Predictors for Delayed Presentation

Tara J. Rick, MPAS1,2; Magdeline Aagard, EdD3; Erica Erwin, MSc4; Caara Leintz, MPAS1; Elizabeth Danik, BSN5; Furaha Serventi, MD5; Oliver Henke, MD5,6; and Karen Yeates, MD7
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Cancer is a growing problem in Africa, and delays in receiving timely cancer care often results in poorer outcomes. The purpose of this study was to identify the patient and health-system factors associated with delayed cancer care in adults living in the Northern Zone of Tanzania.


Between July 2018 and July 2019, we surveyed adult patients presenting to an oncology clinic in Northern Tanzania. Delayed presentation was defined as 12 weeks or longer from initial symptoms to presentation for cancer care. Multivariate logistic regression and adjusted relative risk (aRR) were used to identify factors predicting delayed presentation.


Among 244 adult patients with cancer who completed the survey, 78% (n = 191) had delayed presentation. Patient-related factors associated with delayed presentation included lower educational attainment (P = .03), increased travel time (P = .05), lack of cancer knowledge (P , .05), and fear of cancer and cancer treatments (P , .05) on multivariate analysis. On analysis of aRR, patients without private car and those with health insurance had higher risk of delayed presentation (aRR: 1.27; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.32 and aRR: 1.15; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.32). There was a strong association with increased number of visits before presentation at the cancer center and delayed presentation (P = .0009).

CONCLUSION Cancer awareness and prevention efforts targeting patients and community-level health care workers are key to reduce delays in cancer care in Northern Tanzania.