Every year, 275,000 women die from cervical cancer, and eighty percent of these cases occur in low and lower-middle income countries. Screening for cervical cancer significantly reduces this mortality rate, given that most cervical cancer and pre-cancer cases caught early are treatable. Unfortunately, many low and lower-middle income settings lack the infrastructure for traditional screening. In Ghana, where cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death for women, less than 5% of women have ever been screened. Visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA) is a low-cost and effective method to screen for cervical cancer but is not currently used widely, due to a lack of training and awareness of the method. VIA is currently the most accessible “see-and-treat” approach to screening and has been shown to be viable in low and lower-middle income settings.vi With proper training and follow-up, VIA can avert 68% of cervical cancer deaths. We estimate that VIA and subsequent treatment can save 150,000 lives in low and lower-middle income countries.
The aim of our project is to design and implement training for VIA cervical cancer screening in Ghana. A number of people and organizations have attempted to address the issue of cervical cancer detection and early treatment before, but none through the lens of trainer-based education. Most programs have focused primarily on the role of VIA in cervical cancer screening in low-resource countries, and in general, their results have been very positive. However, none of these programs have focused specifically on developing an effective training method and its distribution, and this is the gap we are working to fill.