Scientific Letter

The management of head and neck cancer in Africa. What lessons can be learned from African literature?

Kim A. Coutts, Jaishika Seedat, Ellen Vlok
South African Journal of Oncology | Vol 6 | a204 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajo.v6i0.204 | © 2022 Kim A. Coutts, Jaishika Seedat, Ellen Vlok | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 October 2021 | Published: 01 February 2022

About the author(s)

Kim A. Coutts, Department of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Jaishika Seedat, Department of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Ellen Vlok, Department of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

There is a significant dearth of contextually relevant information related to the management of head and neck cancer (HNC) in Africa. The aim of this letter was to put forward the findings from our larger systematic review to describe the current management of HNC patients in Africa and to identify gaps and present potential solutions. Sixty-six articles were included and analysed with descriptive statistics, a narrative synthesis, and thematic analysis. Surgical resection remains the primary medical intervention in Africa, whilst chemotherapy and radiation services remain limited. There was no mention of multidisciplinary team input in the management of these patients, including no description of any rehabilitative treatments. There are significant resource shortages ranging from access to medical equipment to both skilled medical and rehabilitative staff. The findings from this study imply that the management of HNC in Africa requires a possible transdisciplinary approach to improve access to services. Health professionals also need to explore a community-based level approach to care to improve access. There needs to be more context-specific research to improve contextually relevant teaching and practice in HNC.


Keywords

head and neck cancer; rehabilitation; management; speech language pathology; interdisciplinary; dysphagia

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