October 20, 2011

VU’s cancer screening program in Zambia recognized

VU’s cancer screening program in Zambia recognized

A cervical cancer screening program in Zambia co-founded by Vanderbilt University faculty was recognized as a model program at the George W. Bush Institute’s Summit to Save Lives last month in Washington, D.C.

Vikrant Sahasrabuddhe, M.D., Dr.P.H., assistant professor of Pediatrics, and Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, are close collaborators of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia, which has tested more than 65,000 women for cervical cancer during the past five years.

The program uses a simple approach to detect “acetowhitening” abnormalities by applying 5 percent acetic acid (household vinegar) to the cervix. If abnormalities exist, the vinegar turns the tissue white.

Trained nurses can either freeze them off with a simple procedure, or refer the women to local hospitals, depending on the seriousness of the lesions.

The women can “watch” the testing with the help of on-the-spot digital cervical images. “It’s educational for the women themselves, and the digital images also allow quality assurance of the nurses' performance,” Vermund said. The women also are offered HIV testing.

Vermund and Sahasrabuddhe helped launch the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia in 2006 with Groesbeck Parham, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Mulindi Mwanahamuntu, M.D., consulting obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Zambia.

The program is integrated within public sector health clinics and aided by the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), which was founded by Vermund in 2000.

Sahasrabuddhe and Vermund provide technical assistance in implementation research, program evaluation, and capacity building through the federally funded Vanderbilt-CIDRZ AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP).