Pathology Services in Nigeria: Cross-Sectional Survey Results From Three Cancer Consortia

Peter Ntiamoah, PhD, MPH, Ngozi R. Monu, PhD, Fatimah B. Abdulkareem, MD, Kayode A. Adeniji, MBChB, John O. Obafunwa, MD, Akinwumi O. Komolafe, MBChB, Clayton Yates, PhD, Ernest Kaninjing, DrPH, John D. Carpten, PhD,9 Bodour Salhia, PhD,9 Folake T. Odedina, PhD, Marcia Edelweiss, MD, T. Peter Kingham, MD, and Olusegun I. Alatise, MD


Cancer incidence is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, yet there is little information on the capacity of pathology laboratories in this region. We aimed to assess the current state of pathology services in Nigeria to guide strategies to ensure best practices and improve the quality of surgical specimen handling.


We developed structured pathology survey to assess tissue handling, sample processing, and immunohistochemistry (IHC) capabilities. The survey was distributed electronically to 22 medical centers in Nigeria that are part of established cancer consortia. Data were collected between September and October 2017.


Sixteen of 22 centers completed the survey in full. All 16 institutions had at least one board-certified pathologist and at least one full-time laboratory scientist/technologist. The majority of responding institutions (75%) reported processing fewer than 3,000 samples per year. For sample processing, 38% of institutions reported manual tissue processing and 75% processed biopsies and surgical specimens together. The average tissue fixation time ranged from 5 to more than 72 hours before processing and paraffin embedding. Half of the institutions reported having no quality assurance processes to evaluate hematoxylin and eosin–stained slides, and 25% reported having no written operating procedures. Half of the participating institutions have a facility for routine IHC staining, and among these there was considerable variability in processes and validation procedures. External proficiency testing was not common among surveyed sites (38%).


Data from 16 Nigerian medical institutions indicate deficiencies in standardization, quality control, and IHC validation that could affect the reliability of pathology results. These findings highlight addressable gaps in pathology services that can ensure accurate diagnosis and follow-up for the growing number of patients with cancer in this region.