Cervical cancer remains the main cause of cancer deaths in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). In Uganda, cervical cancer contributes to 80% of all female malignancies and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, mainly because of late presentation and delays in receiving appropriate treatment. There were previously no cervical screening facilities in Fort Portal, meaning women had to travel over 6 hours to Kampala to access screening. Many women could not afford this journey and were therefore left without access to this vitally important service.
The Cervical Screening Project was initially funded by a £1,500 donation from a group of nursing students from Liverpool John Moore’s University. They had completed their elective placements through K4C and had highlighted the need for the service. Their funding helped K4C to develop its first cervical screening unit at Kagote Health Centre in Fort Portal. This included renovating the unit and purchasing the necessary equipment, including Enhanced Visual Assessment (EVA) and Cold Coagulation devices. Subsequent funding of £50,000 was received from UKAid to upscale and expand the service model from 1 to 3 sites to include Bukuuku Health Centre and Fort Portal Reginal Referral Hospital and provide intensive user training to staff across all 3 sites.
K4C’s professional volunteers have played important roles in providing comprehensive training to local staff. Other activities have included raising awareness through community engagement, social media and radio broadcasts; conducting a community survey and GPS mapping exercise to improve planning of outreach activities; and establishing a telemedicine service to enable local staff to share images of cervixes and receive ongoing diagnostic mentoring from UK based gynaecologists and oncologists. Where treatment is indicated, K4C has procured a washable and rechargeable Cold Coagulation Device which does not require consumables, thus improving sustainability.
Results so Far
Over the course of the project, over 70 staff have been trained in cervical screening and treatment. To date, over 2000 patients have been screened and 60 have received cold coagulation treatment or referral for further management. The majority of these women would not have otherwise been screened and, as a result, may have gone on to later develop cervical cancer. Although the UKAid funded project ended in April 2020, K4C has continued to support all three screen and treat services that we have set up. Supported by technological innovations, the model has significant potential to increase screening rates and reduce deaths from cervical cancer.
The project evaluation is ongoing; a full report and publication will be shared in due course. Check back here soon for updates!