Cancer in Patients Referred Abroad For Health Care and Related Foreign Currency Expenses

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Ruben Niyonsaba
Astère Manirakiza
Laurent Irakoze


Background: There is limited access to health services in Burundi, as most of the services such as cancer care are unavailable. Burundian citizen who can afford the costs involved in seeking treatment elsewhere are referred abroad. The purpose of this study was to assess the proportion of patients suffering from cancer among patients referred abroad for healthcare and to evaluate the costs incurred by those patients in relation to what the country would save by establishing cancer healthcare facilities.
Methodology: The study was performed retrospectively from January 2016 to December 2018. With approval of Ministry of Public Health and AIDS control, the data was collected from medical reports at the general management of health facilities and AIDS control office. All patients with medical reports containing the reason for referral were included in the study. Medical reports assessing occupational disability were excluded. Data analysis was performed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).
Results: Male, female and unclear was 45.3%, 39.9% and 14.8% respectively. Average age was 31,82. The main reason for referral was MRI (21.7%). Cancer patients represented 18% of all patients referred abroad for healthcare and the most common type of cancer found was breast (26.5%), genitourinary (15.7%) and digestive (14,2%). If all patients from 2016-2018 were referred to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, India or Europe for 30 years, the country would spend in foreign currency US$3,858,229; US$638,342.80; US$21,288,592; US$10,410,192.90; US$54,718,329.70 respectively. Also, if all patients estimated by Globocan in 2018 were to be referred to these countries, the cost of foreign currencies would be US$52,455,122.60; US$38,264,740.88; US$129,272,590.40; US$81,330,325.94; US$276,601,008.02 respectively.
Conclusion: There is a good number of cancer patients among patients referred abroad for health care. The estimated costs incurred by patients referred abroad for cancer care are far greater than funds needed to setup modern cancer care centres in Burundi.

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