Cancer screening tech revolutionises healthcare for African women

03 Feb 2017, 12:00 am
Tega Omisore
Cancer screening tech revolutionises healthcare for African women

Feature Highlight

The ETiCCS test combines medical research with cloud technology to uncover underlying challenges of cancer screening.

SAP, a German multinational software company, and the Heidelberg University Hospital, have teamed up to provide an innovative solution for conducting a digitised screening test. The test is acclaimed to have won the 2016 DMI-Design Value Award for its a combined application of medical research with SAP's cloud technology to improve the quality of life amongst women in Africa.

The test, called Emerging Technologies in Cervical Cancer Screening (ETiCCS), is conducted by Heidelberg University Hospital, which is a leading medical centre in Germany, on rural and low-income dwellers who might be suffering from cervical cancer.

Most eligible African women have never been screened and have no access to healthcare resources, making the ETiCCS project a most welcome innovation. In Kenya, a total of 800 women at the Moi Teaching and Referal Hospital in Eldoret, were tested during a one-year study, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This system of screening utilises specific methods to detect Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is the chief cause of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death for women in Nigeria and ranks first for female mortality in Kenya. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its AFRO feature, estimates that HPV infections cause approximately 68,000 cases of cervical cancer each year in Africa. Although cervical cancer is a preventable disease, it is the most common cause of cancer in the African Region where it accounts for 22% of all female cancers and 12% of all newly diagnosed cancer in both men and women every year. In Africa, WHO says 34 out of every 100,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 23 out of every 100,000 women die from cervical cancer every year.

A study presented in 2012 at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Chicago, indicates that the “HPV virus stays in black women’s system for 18 months – for white women, it is only 12 months.” African women have double the cervical cancer mortality rate compared to other races.

The ETiCCS project is geared at revolutionising healthcare screening services by combining user-centered design with on-site user research that helps healthcare professionals to uncover critical patient insights and adjust the solution to other screening processes and field research. For this method, which is particularly well suited for the African socio-economic environment, the Design and Co-Innovation Center team from SAP provided a solution that runs on Fujitsu notebooks with touch-screen functionality sponsored by Intel.

Providing a key resource for Kenyan society and families, ETiCCS enhances seamless communication between doctors, laboratory, and patients even in the remotest parts of Africa with unstable internet connectivity. This innovation makes early cancer detection programmes achievable.

Self-sampling test will be provided for larger, more rural areas with a definitive aim to screen eligible women across Kenya. SPA has said data will be available for analysis after initial studies are finished, creating a unified knowledge base for medical analysis and communication in practical medicine.

Insight into the motivations for, and benefits of the ETiCCS-SAP HANA Solution were expressed by Dr. Gilbert Saggia, Managing Director at SAP East Africa. In a statement released on Thursday, February 2, 2017, Saggia noted that SAP’s vision and commitment is to help the world function better and improve people's lives, in accordance with the development goals of the United Nations (UN).

He said the screening technology is foremost in combining applied medical research with the power of cutting-edge cloud technology to uncover the underlying challenges of cancer screening in Africa and other emerging countries. With this solution, hundreds of women in Kenya now have access to screening for cervical cancer during the first pilot phase of the project.   

High operational and efficiency levels are expected to benefit core patrons of this technology. SAP discloses that utilisation of this technology will see medical staff handle minimal paperwork reducing duplication or opportunities for human error to affect test results. The medical records are safely stored in the cloud providing instant access to results. This enables labs to accelerate the screening process and empower medical staff through improved quality control embedded in the screening process. Real-time access to data and reporting, fully compliant with data privacy and security requirements, means labs can make informed diagnoses regardless of location or region.

Plans to expand the ETiCCS project operation are ongoing and SAP hopes to attract additional strategic partners with a passion for improving people's lives and strengthening Africa's healthcare systems.

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