Funded by the European Union
Department of Biotechnology Government of India

Working together to bring cervical screening where it is needed most

PRESCRIP-TEC teams meeting in Uganda

The PRESCRIP-TEC team, representatives from the Female Cancer Foundation, Friendship, and the Uganda Rural Development Programme.

The PRESCRIP-TEC Project is a multi-country approach that focuses its research on increasing the adoption of cervical cancer screening in resource-poor or hard-to-reach settings of Bangladesh, India, Uganda and Slovakia. During PRESCRIP-TEC’s research, remarkable synergies emerged among countries.

Synergies enhancing the project

  • In Bangladesh, the partners developed an app with 68 algorithms for diverse healthcare services, including the diagnosis of cervical cancer. Data from the mHealth app fuels an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) tool for our analyses.
  • The Female Cancer Foundation (FCF) is responsible for the program planning and setting up the implementation by the PRESCRIP-TEC partners: Friendship (Bangladesh), Uganda Rural Development and Training Program and the Uganda Cancer Institute (Uganda), MAHE (India) and Healthy Regions (Slovak Republic). The FCF is also conducting the quality control of screening activities within each partner’s area of work. Furthermore, they compiled all the fieldwork procedures for the screening and treatment of women, and the data collection through the EMR.
  • Uganda’s participation adds another layer. Our multi-country study, powered by cutting-edge tech, aims to shape global guidelines, elevating healthcare practices and screenings. In Uganda, the project is currently being implemented in all the five sub-counties located in the Kakumiro district: Birembo, Mpasana, Kisengwe, Katikara, and Kitaihuka.

Dr. Marlieke oversees PRESCRIP-TEC and TOT work in Uganda

During August, Dr. Marlieke de Fouw, MD, from the Female Cancer Foundation, along with Awlad Hossain and Yeasin Ali from FRIENDSHIP in Bangladesh visited Uganda. They met with the implementing organisation – the Uganda Rural Development and Training Program (URDT), with the aim of assessing and improving the use of the EMR. They also supervised the cervical cancer project and its progress in Uganda.

Furthermore, the team visited health facilities to supervise the operations of PRESCRIP-TEC in the Kakumiro district, Western Uganda. Dr. Marlieke, along with the trained health workers from the implementing health facilities, conducted VIA screenings for women with positive HIV screening tests.

Saving lives through cervical cancer prevention

Receiving preventive care reduces the risk of diseases, disabilities, and death. However, in poor, hard-to-reach settings, the living conditions are extremely challenging. People in these settings have daily concerns with meeting basic needs, such as food and sanitation, and they do not often consider preventive healthcare. Normally, patients seek medical attention only when they experience clear symptoms – and this can often be too late. Raising awareness about cervical cancer prevention is one of the tasks that PRESCRIP-TEC is undertaking among women in rural areas of Uganda.

For example, a 39-year-old single mother of four children, who lost her husband two years ago, shared her struggle to provide for her family. During a screening, she was diagnosed with an early stage of cervical cancer and was advised to undergo treatment. Afterwards, she no longer experienced any pain and eventually made a full recovery. She said, “Receiving the good news of surviving cervical cancer made me the happiest, and I am grateful to URDT and PRESCRIP-TEC for the program.”

“Receiving the good news of surviving cervical cancer made me the happiest, and I am grateful to URDT and PRESCRIP-TEC for the program.”

PRESCRIP-TEC beneficiary

Steps towards health equity

Cervical cancer is among the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. However, not all women have access to cervical screening, and many girls and boys around the world have not received the HPV vaccine, especially in low and middle-income countries.

HPV self sampling, which allows patients to collect their own samples, can extend HPV cervical screening to the most needed areas. HPV self-sampling can help to alleviate the challenges faced by women in rural communities which include: a lack of transportation, financial means, or time to travel to a clinic. Furthermore, the ease and privacy of the procedure is more comfortable for the women and it empowers them to take charge of their own preventive health care.

Julius Basaija, a VHT coordinator in Birembo Parish in Kakumiro district, mentioned that he obtains consent first before collecting samples from women. He stores the samples, transports them, and enters the data into a tablet using the mHealth application. He believes that this process is a significant step in meeting the needs of the community.

PRESCRIP-TEC numbers in Uganda

The PRESCRIP-TEC project in Uganda has currently trained over 10 health workers. Additionally, 6,541 women have undergone HPV self-tests. There were 1062 HPV-positive women who were followed up for VIA and 902 of them reported for the screening. Out of this group, 902 women received thermocoagulation treatment for precancerous lesions. Furthermore, 15 women were referred to the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) and Hoima Regional Referral Hospital for further management.

The PRESCRIP-TEC Project serves as an example of collaborative efforts among countries striving for health equity in the areas where it is most needed. It demonstrates a collective endeavour showcasing the impact of the research funds, provided by the European Union, on the promotion of universal health.