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Malawi Medical Journal
College of Medicine, University of Malawi and Medical Association of Malawi
ISSN: 1995-7262
Vol. 27, No. 3, 2015, pp. 93-95
Bioline Code: mm15024
Full paper language: English
Document type: Research Article
Document available free of charge

Malawi Medical Journal, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2015, pp. 93-95

 en A review of patients with advanced cervical cancer presenting to palliative care services at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi
Bates, M.J. & Mijoya, A.


Background Cervical cancer is the commonest cancer affecting women in Malawi, which has the highest rate of this disease in the world. Most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Aim To describe the symptom burden, palliative care interventions, and outcomes of cervical cancer patients who entered care at Tiyanjane Clinic in Blantyre, Malawi, between January and December 2012.
Methods We reviewed the case files of 72 patients presenting to our hospital-based palliative care service over one year.
Results The mean age was 49.5 years. Twenty-six patients (36%) were HIVpositive and the majority of these (n = 22; 85%) were on antiretroviral medication at presentation to palliative care. Pain (n = 66; 92%), vaginal discharge (n = 44; 61%), and unpleasant odour (n = 37; 51%) were commonly reported. Over a third of patients (n = 26; 36%) reported pain in two or more sites. Fourteen patients (19%) reported vaginal bleeding. Spousal breakdown (through widowhood or divorce) was noted in over half (n = 41; 57%) of all cases. Pain relief was provided to 69 (96%) of the patients (morphine to 40 patients; 56%). Common interventions provided included metronidazole tablets (used vaginally), sanitary items, and counselling. At the end of the study period, 18 patients (25%) were still under the care of palliative services.
Conclusions Access to medications such as morphine, metronidazole and tranexamic acid can improve quality of life, even when radiotherapy is limited. Health care teams require necessary skills and training, including how to perform a comprehensive assessment, with an emphasis on the provision of psychosexual counselling, to assist with the complexity of symptoms occurring in this vulnerable group.

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