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Improving Colorectal Cancer Survival Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from a New Study

A recent study conducted by University Medicine Halle, in collaboration with the American Cancer Society and various international institutes, sheds light on the dire state of colorectal cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the potential for cure, a significant number of individuals with colorectal cancer in the region are not receiving adequate treatment, leading to higher mortality rates.

Published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the study analyzed data from 653 individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The research focused on the need for improved diagnosis and treatment options, especially considering the rising number of cases and low survival rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lead author Lucia Hämmerl, a research associate in the Global Health working group at University Medicine Halle, explained the study’s objective: “Our study aimed at establishing the amount of basic care that colorectal cancer patients are receiving in sub-Saharan Africa and how impactful the treatment is in terms of survival rates.”

The researchers concentrated on creating harmonized colorectal cancer guidelines tailored to the circumstances in sub-Saharan Africa. The data, sourced from eleven population-based cancer registries, revealed alarming statistics. Among the 653 patients, only eight individuals (three percent) with non-metastatic and potentially curable disease received treatment in line with the guidelines. Over half received treatment with deviations, and more than a third received no treatment at all.

This inadequate care resulted in mortality rates up to 3.5 times higher in the studied regions. Hämmerl emphasized that many patients with incomplete medical records likely did not receive proper treatment, contributing to the lack of clinical data collection. Furthermore, the study found that the survival rate significantly increased when treatment adhered to guidelines or slightly deviated, occurring in less than one in 20 cases.

Hämmerl highlighted the importance of providing adequate basic care without relying on high-tech or costly solutions. The study’s revelations underscore the urgent need to address the disparities in colorectal cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa to improve survival rates and enhance the overall quality of care. As the research sparks conversations on the global stage, efforts to implement accessible and guideline-compliant treatments become paramount.

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