Geographic "Codes" Identify Cervical Cancer Incidence in Uganda

Woman walkingCervical cancer used to be a leading cause of mortality for women in the United States, but an increase in screenings over the past 40 years contributed to a decrease in women affected by this disease. For low- and middle-income countries, cervical cancer remains prevalent, particularly in Uganda.

A research team led by Principal Investigator Kirsten Beyer, PhD, MPH, MS traveled to Kampala, Uganda to better understand this discrepancy and partner with a local cancer registry to use geospatial mapping of cancer data to inform solutions. “Cervical cancer is prevalent in Uganda even though globally there are vaccines to prevent it, screenings to find it, and therapies to treat it. It's about resource availability and distribution,” says Beyer. Their findings were published in the Journal of Global Health.

Beyer notes that cancer registries in Africa are sparse, and there is often a lack of systems to track and support healthcare data. “During my first trip to Kampala, Uganda, I was shown an amazing archive of old dusty pathology reports from the 1950s that had been meticulously maintained and learned about the region’s long history through different political regimes and turmoil,” she says.

By leveraging population-based data from the Kampala Cancer Registry and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the research team plotted geographic identifiers (geocodes) which revealed areas of high cervical cancer incidence, highlighting the importance of high-resolution spatial detail to guide medical and public health efforts.

The research team also published a second study named “By the time they run into the hospital, their life is already at stake: a qualitative study of healthcare professional perceptions on priorities for cervical cancer policy in Uganda, led by MCW Medical Student, Natalie Anumolu which identified opportunities for cervical cancer prevention and control by leveraging the HIV system in Uganda.