Only innovation can reduce illness and poverty in Africa, according to a program that is funding creative approaches to healthcare in developing countries.
More than 50,000 women die each year of cervical cancer in Africa, according to World Health Organization estimates, as more than 80% of the cases are detected in late stages.
In countries such as Tanzania, where nearly 4,500 women die annually from the disease, the problem is exacerbated by an acute shortage of medical experts and a lack of quality screening services, especially in rural areas.
But now a group of Canadian and Tanzanian health innovators have joined forces to apply simple and safe mobile technologies to improve cervical cancer screening and thus potentially reduce mortality rates in the East African country.
The idea is to send teams of two trained non-physician healthcare workers in remote Tanzania to examine women living several hours away from health centers. The nurses, who will be equipped with cervical screening and treatment tools as well as standard smartphones, will take a photograph of the cervix with their phone and send it via SMS to a medical expert in a specialized clinic.
Trained doctors will then be able to review the image immediately and text the diagnosis back to the health worker, as well as give instructions about treatment.
"That's the beauty of it -- for early grade cancers, those will be able to be treated right in the field, right in the rural area," says Dr Karen Yeates, of Queen's University, Ontario, the principal investigator of The Kilimanjaro Cervical Screening Project.