Development of a Nutritional Screening Tool for Pediatric Cancer Patients in Uganda and Tanzania: An Exploratory Analysis
Background: Nutrition is a key determinant of pediatric cancer patient outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. Accurately identifying pediatric cancer patients at risk of malnutrition remains a challenge. There is a need for a standardized nutritional screening tool, developed and validated in sub-Saharan Africa. Study aims: The aims of this study were to: 1) select candidate variables in the development of a nutritional screening from predictors associated with malnutrition in pediatric cancer patients and, 2) conduct a secondary data analysis estimating the prevalence of pediatric cancer in Uganda from cases presented at the Uganda Cancer Institute between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019. Methods: This study is a longitudinal hospital-based study, carried out at the Bugando Medical Center in Tanzania and Uganda Cancer Institute in Uganda. The study enrolled clinically confirmed pediatric cancer patients (<18 years) at the study sites. Measures of interest include: nutritional status, symptom duration, abdominal distention, anthropometric measures such as height, weight, mid-upper arm circumference, abdominal circumference, triceps skinfold thickness, and clinical characteristics such as serum albumin, mean corpuscular volume, and protein. Logistic regression models examined predictors of nutritional status in pediatric cancer patients. Lastly, geospatial analysis estimated the prevalence and examined the country-wide distribution of the pediatric cancers presented at the Uganda Cancer Institute between 2017 and 2019. Results: The sample of 77 pediatric cancer patients enrolled at the two study sites ranged from 1 to 17 years old. Solid tumor malignancies like Wilms tumor comprise of 40% of all diagnoses. 60% of cancer patients were malnourished at baseline. The strongest predictors of nutritional status were mid-upper arm circumference (AOR 0.52, 95% CI: 0.31 – 0.87), abdominal circumference (AOR 1.38, 95% CI: 1.16 – 1.65) and serum albumin (AOR 0.73, 95% CI: 0.62 - 0.86). Secondary analysis of the Uganda Cancer Institute registry shows 11607 patients with confirmed cancer diagnosis between 2017 and 2019. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (31.4%) is the most common cancer diagnosis, followed by Wilms tumor (19.1%), rhabdomyosarcoma (9.4%) and Burkitt’s lymphoma (6.9%). Blood cancers are most common cancer types, of them the most frequent cases being leukemia (37%). 2018 saw the highest number of cancer presentations within the study timeframe. Conclusions: The results show abdominal circumference, serum albumin, and muac are candidate variables in developing a nutritional screening tool for pediatric cancer patients in SSA. Blood and solid cancers are prevalent in Uganda; thus, a customized nutritional screening tool is much needed.
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