Many people in low-income countries view breast cancer as a death sentence. The complex barriers surrounding it lead women to delay care until it’s too late. Dr. Ophira Ginsburg’s team aims to combat that issue by building on the widespread availability of inexpensive mobile phones in developing countries. They developed an inexpensive system for community health workers to identify, refer and track breast cancer patients using mobile phone applications.
After anxiously awaiting her trip, Women’s College adjunct scientist Dr. Ophira
Ginsburg finally arrived in the pre-monsoon heat and humidity of Bangladesh.This trip marked the official launch of Dr. Ginsburg’s Grand Challenges Canada-funded project, Mobile Health Solutions for Breast Cancer Case Finding, Referral and Navigation in Rural Bangladesh.
On the first day of training, 30 women hired to be community health workers showed up, unsure of what to expect.
“At first, most believed that breast cancer is always fatal,” says Dr. Ginsburg, “but before long they seemed hopeful. They needed little prompting to offer their own ideas about barriers to effective care such as societal values, shyness, family influence, money, transport and fears about breast cancer.”
The second day of training was spent learning about benign and malignant breast disease, risk factors, and treatment. The women also got hands-on teaching with plastic breast models.
On the final day of training, all women practiced working a smart phone and participating in mock interviews. Most of the women had no experience with a smart phone, and two were unfamiliar with mobile technology and the internet. But by the end of the day they felt confident in their abilities.
“We began each day of training with a song or poem to the group,” says Dr. Ginsburg. “At the end of the last day of training, my colleague Tanvir Tamal, of one of our local community partners Amader Gram, played the harmonium while everyone joined in singing.”
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