Diagnosing Breast Cancer in Uganda

Here’s a program that I think deserves some good press. Working with Imaging the World, a non-profit group that’s trying to bring diagnostic imaging capabilities to under-served parts of the globe, Chris Duncan, a medical student at the University of Vermont, is trying to implement a program this summer that uses a diagnostic algorithm and targeted community outreach to diagnose breast cancer in Ugandan women.

According to a release issued by the American Roentgen Ray Society, the algorithm focuses on breast ultrasound as an initial diagnostic tool for evaluating palpable breast masses. The breast ultrasound exam is done by minimally trained personnel at a clinic who follow a standardized scanning methodology. The ultrasound images are then compressed, uploaded to a server through a cellular network, and interpreted at another location by an imaging expert.

These results are then sent back to the clinic. If they indicated that a biopsy is needed the patient is referred to the district referral hospital where local surgeons have been trained “to perform both fine-needle and core biopsies using ultrasound guidance,” Duncan said. If the biopsy is positive then the patient is referred to a second hospital where they can receive treatment.

According to Duncan, the algorithm is designed to be simpler and more effective than the current methods used in Uganda where most patients are diagnosed at later stages of the disease.

In addition to diagnosing and providing treatment, “We are hiring a patient care navigator to assist women in the complicated and daunting process of receiving breast cancer care” as well as “working on obtaining funding for a lodging area where the women can stay during their treatment period in the capital city,” Duncan said.

They’re also trying to educate patients some of whom still believe that cancer is contagious or that surgery spreads cancer; among other myths, he said.

You can read the ARRS release here and learn more about ITW here.

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