Background: Ensuring timely and high-quality surgery must be a key element of breast cancer control efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. We investigated delays in preoperative care and the impact of on-site versus off-site operation on time to operative treatment of patients with breast cancer at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in Rwanda. Methods: We used a standardized data abstraction form to collect demographic data, clinical characteristics, treatments received, and disease status as of November 2017 for all patients diagnosed with breast cancer at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in 2014 to 2015. Results: From 2014 to 2015, 89 patients were diagnosed with stage I to III breast cancer and treated with curative intent. Of those, 68 (76%) underwent curative breast operations, 12 (14%) were lost to follow-up, 7 (8%) progressed, and 2 declined the recommended operation. Only 32% of patients who underwent operative treatment had the operation within 60 days from diagnosis or last neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Median time to operation was 122 days from biopsy if no neoadjuvant treatments were given and 51 days from last cycle of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Patients who received no neoadjuvant chemotherapy experienced greater median times to operation at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (180 days) than at a referral hospital in Kigali (93 days, P =.04). Most patients (60%) experienced a disruption in preoperative care, frequently at the point of surgical referral. Documented reasons for disruptions and delays included patient factors, clinically indicated treatment modifications, and system factors. Conclusion: We observed frequent delays to operative treatment, disruptions in preoperative care, and loss to follow-up, particularly at the point of surgical referral. There are opportunities to improve breast cancer survival in Rwanda and other low- and middle-income countries through interventions that facilitate more timely surgical care.
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