Challenges in the Management of Breast Cancer in a Low Resource Setting in South East Asia


Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope, Lucerent Clinical Solutions, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Email :


Background: Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in Cambodia, a low income country in SouthEast Asia. The Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope (SHCH) is a charity hospital set up by an international nongovernmental organisation, HOPE Worldwide. In 2008, SHCH partnered with AmeriCares, a global health organisation to set up and deliver a breast cancer programme to provide education, diagnosis and treatment for women with breast cancer. The objective of this study is to characterise the presentation, diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of women treated under this program. Materials and Methods: A total of 215 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer from 1 March 2008 until 31 March 2011 were studied. Age at diagnosis, tumour size, histological type, tumour grade, ER, lymph node involvement, treatment modalities (surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy) were recorded. Data on mortality at 3 years were obtained whenever possible. Results: The median age was 47 years old. Some 77.8% were diagnosed with stage 3 and 4 lesions, and 78.5% underwent mastectomy, of which 28.4% the intent was palliative. Of those whose ER status were known, only 48.3% were ER positive. Only 6 patients could afford chemotherapy while only 1 patient had radiotherapy. Hormone therapy was provided free for those who were ER positive. The overall survival rate at 3 years was 39.1%. Conclusions: Breast cancer presents at a late stage, and because treatment is suboptimal, survival is poor in Cambodia. A more aggressive approach to early detection and treatment needs to be developed to improve outcome from this potentially curable disease.