Funded by the European Union
Department of Biotechnology Government of India

Slovakia’s collaborative impact in Bangladesh: advancing cervical cancer screening protocols with innovation and expertise

Patrik Sivco at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University

In a world where healthcare access remains unequal, PRESCRIP-TEC, a groundbreaking initiative, is taking on the challenge of improving cervical cancer screening programs in Europe and low- and middle-income Countries (LMICs). The mission is clear: to enhance existing screening efforts with women-friendly and cost-effective tools, ensuring that cervical cancer screening is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all.

A pivotal partnership within PRESCRIP-TEC involves Trnava University (TRUNI) and the League Against Cancer in Slovakia, who are at the forefront of developing clinical practice guidelines and protocols.

During the summer of 2023, the Slovak team engaged in a field visit to Bangladesh. The purpose of this visit was to support the implementation of standard operating procedures, monitor the use of guidelines by field workers, and identify if any need is required for improvements in national cervical cancer screening, treatment policies and in training materials.

Dr. Patrik Sivčo oversees PRESCRIP-TEC work in Bangladesh

During August, Dr. Patrik Sivčo from the Department of Public Health of the Trnava University, visited Bangladesh to discuss the activities carried out. His visit included discussions with project teams from FRIENDSHIP and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (icddr,b). Together, they delved into key topics, such as the repository of cervical cancer screening and treatment SOPs and guidelines available in each country, the feasibility of these SOPs and guidelines in the field, and the identification of the possible need for amendments and updates to facilitate global dissemination.

To better understand the context, Sivčo embarked on a journey from Dhaka to Saidpur, accompanied by Dr. Mosamat Umma Kulsum from FRIENDSHIP. Their official visit kicked off with a visit to Friendship’s VIA screening centres at Balashighat ,Gaibandha and Kurigram. Here, teams showcased the intricate process of patient registration and management for VIA examinations. The implementation of VIA Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and the intriguing use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools were demonstrated. These tools are opening a window into the future of healthcare in hard-to-reach settings.

But their visit didn’t stop there. An outreach visit to a nearby char awaited them, where they witnessed a busy courtyard Health Education session. They also engaged in heartfelt discussions with patients who had collected self-swabs, delving into the quality of healthcare services provided.

Later they could explore the Emirates Friendship Hospital (EFH), acquainting themselves with patient management intricacies and the importance of maintaining high Electronic Medical Record (EMR) data quality.

Their journey’s conclusion brought them to the icddr,b and FRIENDSHIP headquarters, where they met with Dr. Aminur, Dr. Naheed and their team. The visitors reflected on their rich experiences, where each step exemplified the power of cooperation and innovation in healthcare.

A brighter future towards ending cervical cancer in Bangladesh awaits

PhDr. Patrick Sivčo’s visit and prior team efforts led to the creation of meticulous protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which adhere to Bangladesh National and BSMMU guidelines. These SOPs were thoughtfully translated into both digital and printed formats. Discussions, however, indicated the need for more comprehensive information in the national guideline, particularly regarding HPV and HPV vaccination.

Sivčo observed the remarkable enthusiasm of women in the community, underscoring the trust established between local communities and FRIENDSHIP. Even though the swab collection phase of PRESCRIP-TEC has been completed, healthcare staff have undergone comprehensive training and possess extensive knowledge to assist in the fight against cervical cancer.

In the meantime, the government is starting HPV vaccination from September 2023 for school-going girls 9 to 14 years old in the National Program that shall be included in the EPI Vaccine card.

PRESCRIP-TEC, driven by dedication, innovation, and collaboration, stands at the forefront of the battle against cervical cancer. With partners like Trnava University, the League Against Cancer, icddr,b, FRIENDSHIP and a commitment to equitable healthcare, it is poised to make a lasting impact. This will bring us one step closer to a world where no one’s health is compromised due to lack of access or resources.