Barriers to optimal management of cancer pain in sub-Saharan Africa: a scoping review

20 Dec 2023
Vivian Onyinyechukwu Magboh, Ogheneochuko Andrew Saba, Rene Krause, Patrice Forget

Background: Although cancer is a significant issue in sub-Saharan Africa, and cancer pain is prevalent, there is insufficient data and research on the barriers to cancer pain management. Even in countries where evidence exists, few studies explore the links between these barriers, which makes it difficult to implement system-wide approaches to address them.

Methods: The search strategy was developed and conducted on databases including MEDLINE, Embase and Web of Science to identify peer-reviewed studies. Then, these retrieved studies were screened systematically to select papers that had met pre-specified criteria. The barriers were categorised into patient-, health professional- and health system-level domains. Then, the quality of the included papers was assessed using the mixed methods appraisal tool. Finally, a narrative synthesis was utilised to summarise the findings.

Results: Fourteen relevant articles from 19 sub-Saharan African countries were included in the scoping review. All the studies highlighted barriers to optimal cancer pain management. Healthcare system-related domains had the most frequently reported barriers. Approximately half of the included studies met 100% of the methodological quality criteria in the critical appraisal.

Conclusion: Improving pain management for cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa requires further high-level research evidence on regulatory policies and interventional strategies, especially at the health system level, as most barriers to cancer pain treatment essentially stem from the healthcare system.

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