Breast cancer clinicopathological presentation, gravity and challenges in Eritrea, East Africa: Management practice in a resource-poor setting

Asmerom Tesfamariam, Andemariam Gebremichael, Jacob Mufunda


Background. In Africa, breast cancer closely compares with cervical cancer as the most common malignancy affecting women and the incidence rates appear to be rising. Early detection of breast cancer is a key strategy for a good treatment outcome. However, there is no established protocol or guideline for management of breast cancer in Eritrea, East Africa.

Objective. To assess the clinicopathological presentation, gravity and management challenges presented in breast cancer treatment in Eritrea.

Methods. Our investigation was a retrospective, descriptive study to assess the clinical features and severity of breast cancer at time of presentation. We reviewed the medical records of all patients who presented with breast malignancies over the 2-year period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2008.

Results. Eighty-two patients ranging in age from 26 - 80 years (mean 48 years) were included in the study. Of these 51% were premenopausal women; 61% of the patients presented with breast mass only and the remainder with manifestations of local (mass plus discharge, breast pain or breast ulceration) or distant metastatic disease. More than 60% of the patients presented after >2 years following onset of symptoms. Two-thirds of patients had late stage (III or IV) disease. All except one case was managed surgically.

Conclusion. Most cases presented at younger age and advanced stage. These findings call for strengthening health education to promote early health-seeking behaviour and advocacy for the introduction of national screening, implementation of a management protocol and establishment of a radio-chemotherapy centre. 

Authors' affiliations

Asmerom Tesfamariam, Orotta School of Medicine and Dentistry, Asmara, Eritrea

Andemariam Gebremichael, Orotta School of Medicine and Dentistry, Asmara, Eritrea

Jacob Mufunda, World Health Organization, Lesotho

Full Text



breast cancer; Eritrea; diagnosis; treatment

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2013;103(8):526-528. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.6829

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-02-23
Date published: 2013-06-05

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