Landscape of esophageal cancer in Northern Kenya: experience from Garissa Regional Cancer Center

11 Apr 2024
Omar Abdihamid, Houda Abdourahman, Abdulsadiq Ibrahim, Thinwa Kareu, Abdullahi Hadi, Abeid Omar, Miriam Mutebi

Introduction: Esophageal cancer (EC) is the ninth most common cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. More than 80% of cases and deaths from EC occur within developing countries. In Kenya, cancer is the second leading cause of non-communicable disease deaths, and the trend of cancer deaths is projected to increase as per the 2020 GLOBOCAN report showing 42,116 new cases annually with a mortality of 27,092 cases. EC is the leading cancer in men and the third most common in women in Kenya. The Garissa Regional Cancer Center (GRCC) is one of the three regional cancer centres in Kenya. Despite the rising EC incidence in the region, there is limited data about the clinicopathological features and treatment outcomes of EC, therefore, this is the first study to look at the landscape of EC in the northern Kenya region.

Methods: This was a retrospective study involving patients’ file review of confirmed EC cases diagnosed or treated at the GRCC from 2019 to 2023. Data collected from each patient’s chart included age, sex, risk factors, family history of EC, histological type, stage at diagnosis, treatment type and survival outcomes. For patients who were no longer in contact with the staff through clinic visits, the patients or their next of kin were contacted through phone calls for patients’ survival status. Data were collected and stored using the STATA software.

Results: Over the study period, 124 esophageal cases were identified, 64 (51.4%) were males and 60 (48.4%) were females with a mean age of 57.56 years. In terms of risk factors, hot beverage consumption was the highest (47 cases, 37.9%), followed by history of peptic ulcer disease (27 cases, 21.8%), smoking (8.9%) and gastresophageal reflux disease (2 cases, 1.6%). Stage of diagnosis at presentation was stage 1 (1 case, 0.8%), stage 2 (22 cases, 17.8%), stage 3 (25 cases, 20.2%), stage 4 (50 cases, 40.3%), not staged (26 cases, 21%). The majority had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (105 cases, 84.7%), followed by adenocarcinoma (5 cases, 4%), anaplastic (5 cases, 4%), SCC+ adenocarcinoma (1 case, 0.8%), unknown histology (8 cases, 3.2%). Nearly all patients had triple assessment (Endoscopy, histology and staging scans) accounting for 92 cases (74.2%), 24 cases (20%) had endoscopy+ histology only, and 8 cases (3.2%) had only imaging scans. In terms of family history of EC, 20 cases (16.1%) had a family history of EC.

Most of the patients were of ethnic Kenyan-Somali background (108 cases, Kenyan Somali, 87.1%) and majority were from Garissa County 96 cases (77.4%), 12 cases (9.7%) Wajir County, 12 cases (9.7%) from Tana River County and 4 cases (3.2%) from other counties. Many patients lacked health insurance (27 cases, 25.8%), while the majority paid out of pocket (92 cases,74.1%). Only 21% (26 cases) received chemotherapy alone, 5 cases (4%) got radiotherapy alone, 12.9% (16 cases) got chemoradiotherapy and a significant number of patients (77 cases, 62.1%) did not receive hospital-based cancer treatment.

Conclusion: This study is the first esophageal study at the GRCC and in northern Kenya in general. Our study confirmed the clinicopathological features of one of the most common cancers in Kenya and more so among Kenyan-Somalis.

The study also validates the predominance of histological subtypes of esophageal SCC with the late presentation, short survival and significant loss of follow-up. We recommend future EC studies employing a large prospective design with a large sample size to determine the impact of the new GRCC on the outcomes of EC patients and the local community.

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