Expanding Access to Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening and Diagnosis in Cameroon Using Smart Technologies

Geneva Health Forum’s Global Health Lab showcased over 100 new diagnostics and treatment tools designed for resource-constrained settings. GICMED is one of the over 100 innovations and devices that were featured. These innovations are specifically suited for resource-limited settings in lower-income countries.

Dr Tankou Conrad — Founder, GICMED
Dr Tankou Conrad — Founder, GICMED

While global attention continues to be on the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreaks of other infectious diseases, Africa’s burgeoning cancer epidemic continues to rage on, and smart technologies are being considered as tools to potentially tackle the epidemic and bring respite to patients – especially women.

In Cameroon, available data showed about 6,000 women died of cancer in 2018, and according Professor Paul Ndom, president of Cameroon’s National Committee for Cancer Prevention, the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the hospitals has also discouraged many patients with cancer from coming to receive care in the clinics thus potentially worsening the cancer outlook in Cameroon.

Global Innovation and Creative Space (GIC Space), through its flagship product GICMED, hopes to reduce breast and cervical cancer death rates in Cameroon and, by extension, Africa’s underserved communities and rural settings that generally lack access to cancer care services.

Its founder, Dr Tankou Conrad told Health Policy Watch on the sidelines of the Geneva Health Forum that cancer care in Cameroon is negatively impacted by lack of access, a paucity of medical professionals that can screen for cancers and lack of cancer screening equipment.

The medical doctor-turned-technology-enthusiast said the innovation was inspired by his experience as a frontline healthcare practitioner in Cameroon’s rural community. 

“I had to witness, first hand, the challenges women face in accessing specialized breast and cervical cancer healthcare. This is the motivating factor behind it. Creating a solution that can be scaled anywhere so that every woman can access breast and cervical care is really what we are motivated to work on,” he said.

The GICMED approach

Conrad described GICMED as an innovative technology that specifically adapts to Sub-Saharan Africa and can work in rural settings such that every woman, irrespective of her location or status, can get screened and diagnosed within the community where she lives.

The GICMED bouquet of solutions includes a smart digital microscopy system, smart speculum, simple biopsy device, telemedicine platform and an e-training platform.

“They enable the medical data required by a specialist to be captured at the point-of-care by on-site nurses who are trained and are now sent to the medical specialist who can be found anywhere in the world. The specialist can make the diagnosis remotely and the woman can be planned for care thereafter,” he said.

The made-in-Cameroon solution is regarded as putting into context the adaptability for the targeted region. Conrad also revealed that pilots for the solutions have been conducted in Cameroon.

“The feedback has been very impressive because we have been able to bring to light, in an evidence-based manner, that using adapted technologies can enable women to get screened and diagnosed at the point-of-care even in the most remote settings.”

For the smart speculum technology, he said it also has a dual application of also serving as a colposcope. This means that “it is portable, easy-to-use and is about 100 times cheaper than what is obtained in developed countries”.

The innovation has been recognized by the Next Einstein Forum, Total Startupper program, and  was a finalist at the 2021 CISCO Global Problem Solver Challenge, among many other awards and recognitions. Dr Tankou was previously on the Quartz Africa Innovators top 30 list of pioneers.

Image Credits: Paul Adepoju.

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