I’m going to talk about a systematic assessment we conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean on the breast and cervical cancer screening programmes within the CanScreen5/CELAC project.
What is the CanScreen5/CELAC project?
The CanScreen5/CELAC project is part of our CanScreen5 project and in the CanScreen5 project we aim to collect information from the cancer screening activities worldwide in a harmonised way. So we have some standardised questionnaires to collect this information. In the CELAC project specifically we also look at inequalities to the cancer screening pathway.
What are the challenges in the assessment of cervical and breast cancer screening in Latin America and Caribbean?
Our big challenge we had was to collect qualitative information because the health system isn’t well prepared to collect information, for example to track women from screening up to treatment. So that path is one of the missing areas, the gaps, in these countries as well as in other parts of the world. This would be a big part. There are also gaps in the organisation of screening programmes.
What is the future plan for this project?
This is an ongoing project and we plan to have face-to-face workshops with the countries, with the 27 countries that we actually participated with, collaborated with. In those workshops we plan to start working on a roadmap of what the cancer screening programme should aim to get achieved in their countries. So to identify the gaps in each country and we are going to work on that; we talk it out with them.
Anything else to add?
So far we’ve been working with our countries for quite a time, we started in January 2020. We began with a training, that wasn’t initially planned but obviously it came about because of the pandemic. So in that training we had online sessions and live sessions. We also gave assignments to our collaborators for them to think about the cancer burden in their country, the cancer control and then cancer screening. So we got to have a common language among us so that facilitated work after. Something that they mentioned that was interesting for them was that, since they had to talk with a lot of people involved in screening, communication improved and that fostered a basis to be able to develop, to improve the cancer screening programmes.
So I would highlight that and also they mentioned that because of the questions we asked in the questionnaire they realised that some things were important; they didn’t know they were important. So I think that’s something important to highlight.
There were gaps in the organisation of the services. We saw there were a few countries that actually invited women to breast or cervical cancer screening. Also there were gaps in the tracking of screened positive women. Also we saw there was especially needed to work in breast cancer screening quality assurance because there were few countries, less than half, had a documented policy and documented performance indicators. Also a big area would be the contractual guarantee to allow access to diagnosis and treatment which wasn’t the case in all countries in Latin America.