More than 530,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 275,000 related deaths occur annually, worldwide. More than 85% of these occur in low- and middle-income countries. Zambia has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, where it is the leading cause of cancer death among women. Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infection with high risk types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). A pilot HPV school-based vaccination program was recently successfully completed in Zambia, with plans to implement a national vaccination campaign for girls.
A nation-wide cervical cancer screening program is established and growing, directed from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. Screening services are available in every province in Zambia.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women in Zambia. Worldwide, more than 1,000,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and >400,000 die from breast cancer annually. Public awareness of breast cancer, and availability of tools for screening and diagnosis are limited in Zambia, and women frequently present with advanced disease.
Project ECHO connects oncologists, radiation oncologists and oncology nurses at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka and surgeons at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka with a multidisciplinary team of oncology and palliative care specialists at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Together these teams discuss patient management and engage in educational didactic activities on a regular basis.
Project ECHO is part of a larger strategy among these institutions to strengthen the clinical practice of surgery and oncology in Lusaka, with the ultimate goal of improving the clinical practice of oncology, reducing the morbidity and mortality from cancer and improving patient outcomes.