Silpa Thaivalappil

Cancer care-seeking patterns in Kumasi, Ghana

Data from each of 32 sentinel hospitals within the 10 regions of Ghana indicate that cancer is among the top ten causes of death in the country and is on the rise. Barriers that delay detection and treatment of cancer compound this rising incidence, such as low public awareness, stigma and misconceptions about cancers, low access to doctors and delayed referral to hospitals that have appropriate care facilities. Limited access to health professionals and modern health facilities, combined with higher costs of modern healthcare translates into 70% of Ghanaians using traditional and faith healers as the first point of contact for healthcare. In these low-resource settings, data indicate that patients who are identified through detection and screening still present late to the hospital, thus addressing the causes of delayed or dropped treatment appear more important than promoting early detection. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with cancer patients at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana in order to understand how patients navigate the formal and informal health systems in the region to access specialized cancer treatment at KATH. Patients referral patterns before arriving at KATH and within the hospital will be identified, specific barriers in seeking prompt treatment of cancer will be examined, and the extent to which traditional and faith-based medicine are involved in the cancer care-seeking process will be assessed in order to identify potential areas for collaboration with the traditional health system. This information is essential to reduce the significant delay between onset of symptoms and presentation of cancer patients to treatment facilities and to improve the health systems response to cancer by reducing barriers in accessing care.

About Silpa
Silpa is from Washington D.C. and graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Health. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 2012 with an MPH in International Health Epidemiology.