Optimizing breast cancer diagnosis in Kenya: Importance of standardization of technical methodologies for comparative breast cancer data.

Document Type



Pathology (East Africa); General Surgery (East Africa); Imaging and Diagnostic Radiology (East Africa)


Background: An analysis of 322 cases referred to Aga Khan University, Nairobi, revealed 56% estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors and 35% prevalence of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Findings were retrospective and limited by inability to control pre-analytical variables that could potentially impact results.

Methods: As part of an ongoing prospective study assessing prevalence of TNBC in the three major ethnic groups in Kenya, we gathered a multidisciplinary team from 10 collaborating health facilities around Kenya for an educational workshop. The objectives were to assess baseline capabilities and pre-analytic variables at each center, identify gaps and provide hands-on training in order to ensure accuracy and validity of ER/PR/HER2 prevalence data gathered as part of the study.

Results: See table. Breast cancer biopsies ranged from one to 20 per month per center. Diagnosis was predominantly by FNA and ER/PR/HER2 was not routinely performed. Buffered formalin fixative and standardized CAP reporting format was employed only at one center. A survey 3 months following the workshop demonstrated increase in diagnostic core biopsiesby 90%, and uniform use of buffered formalin fixative, and adoption of synoptic reporting. 66 prospective cases of breast cancer from the 10 institutions with patients from different ethnic backgrounds have been subsequently collected and IHC data will be presented.

Conclusions: Much has been made of the difference in prevalence of TNBC in Africa as compared to North America, yet little attention has been paid to differences in diagnostic methodologies and basic tissue handling techniques that can potentially alter results. Despite limitations of resources, educational workshops make it possible to improve the practice of breast cancer diagnosis, and thereby enable accurate comparative analysis between breast cancers in the developing and the developed world.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Clinical Oncology