The UWHI works tirelessly to improve women’s health in Uganda. Our biggest concern, and major current project, is tackling the issue of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the biggest cancer killer amongst women in Uganda, with over 2,400 women dying from the disease, and over 3,500 diagnosed with it, each year. These are unnecessary deaths, as cancer of the cervix can be largely prevented by screening women – as has been demonstrated in the UK, with free cervical smears.
We provide free cervical cancer screening, along with breast cancer screening, at two centres in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The two cervical cancer screening centres, at Kawempe and at the Dispensary, are recognised centres of excellence in visual inspection screening in Uganda.
Our services consist of a screen for pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix using visual inspection, and preventative treatment by cryotherapy – a method that uses extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue. Where the centres suspect that the women who come for screening have breast or cervical cancer, they are referred on to the national hospital at Mulago (also in Kampala) for diagnosis and treatment. All services are provided completely free of charge to the women.
In the first four-and-a-half years of their operation, the team has screened over 11,000 women, and two important research studies have been undertaken.
Maintaining these centres of excellence and the infrastructure that supports them is critical to geographical expansion.
Our goals and plans
Our short-term aims are to increase the number of women screened at the Kawempe clinic, as it is currently running at just 42% of the total number of women seen at the Dispensary.
An increase of a third in the number of women screened annually (currently about 2,600) would result in an increase of lives saved from about 50 to about 70. At 2010 running costs, the cost of every life saved through screening an additional 800 women would be about £1,300.
Our long-term aim is to expand our cervical cancer screening programme nationwide, offering a national screening programme across 80 centres in Uganda.
This will help ensure that 400,000 Ugandan women receive a free health screening each year and, based on current detection rates, 40,000 women will be saved over five years from death by cervical cancer.
It’s an ambitious aim, but one we feel is achievable, as we have the skills, expertise and track record to make it happen. We also have the important backing of the Ministry of Uganda.
What we need now to ensure our plans become reality is the financial backing to make it happen.
Neonatal life-support training and advocacy
We’re also continuing to roll out training in neonatal life-support techniques to more districts in Uganda.
During 2010/2011, training has been carried out in two districts. Each training sessions costs £3,000 and funding was secured for six sessions.
Dr Margaret Nakakeeto, a distinguished neonatologist in Uganda, is leading this project and continues to advocate for the inclusion of these techniques to be part of mainstream midwifery training.