Evaluating the use of pathology in improving diagnosis in rural Malawi

Chiyembekezo Kachimanga, Atupere Phiri, Fatsani Manase, Katie Cundale, George Talama, Steve Kamiza, Lawrence Nazimera, Arnold Jumbe, Noel Kalanga, Nedson Fosiko, Leo Masamba, Emily B. Wroe

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Introduction Limited data exists on histologically confirmed cancers and tuberculosis in rural Malawi, despite the high burden of both conditions. One of the main reasons for the limited data is the lack of access to pathology services for diagnosis. We reviewed histopathology results of patients in Neno District, one of the poorest rural districts in Malawi, from May 2011 to July 2017, with an emphasis on cancers and tuberculosis. Methods This is a retrospective descriptive study reviewing pathology results of samples collected at Neno health facilities and processed at Kamiza Pathology Laboratory. Data was entered into Microsoft Excel and cleaned and analysed using Stata 14. Results A total of 532 specimens were collected, of which 87% (465) were tissue biopsies (incision or core biopsies), and 13% (67) were cytology samples. Of all specimens, 7% (n=40) of the samples had non-diagnostic results. Among the results that were diagnostic (n=492), 37% (183) were malignancies, 33% (112) were infections and inflammatory conditions other than tuberculosis, 20% (97) were benign tumours, 7% (34) were tuberculosis, 4% (21) were pre-malignant lesions, 5% (23) were normal samples, and 4% (22) were other miscellaneous conditions. Among the malignancies (n=183), 62% (114) were from females and 38% (69) from males. Among females, almost half of the cancers were cervical (43%, n= 49), followed by Kaposi sarcoma (14%, n=16), skin cancers (9%, n=10), and breast cancer (8%, n=9). In males, Kaposi sarcoma was the most common cancer (35%, n=24), followed by skin cancers (17%, n=12). About 75% (n=137) of the cancers occurred in persons aged 15 to 60 years. Conclusion Histopathology services at a rural hospital in Malawi provides useful diagnostic information on malignancies, tuberculosis and other diagnoses, and can inform management at the district level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-166
Number of pages5
JournalMalawi Medical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Malawi
  • Malignancies
  • Neno
  • Pathology
  • Tuberculosis


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