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Linking International Cancer Screening Efforts

, by Hillary Topazian

Dr. Sudha Sivaram presents during CGH session: Implementation Science Research for Cancer Screening in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.

The International Cancer Screening Network (ICSN) Meeting brings together individuals involved in cancer screening research and cancer screening programs from the ICSN’s member countries. The consortium meets once every two to three years, and began as a small group of 16 collaborators in 1997. In the most recent meeting of the ICSN, in Rotterdam from June 2-4, 2015, there were over 250 participants – a testament to growing interest in cancer screening.  ICSN is composed of 23 countries, many of which are classified as high-income countries by the World Bank. To add a new dimension, CGH led the workshop session “Implementation Science Research for Cancer Screening in Low- and Middle-Income Countries” (LMICs), in an effort to expand the reach of the ICSN.

Dr. Sudha Sivaram began the afternoon by giving an introduction to implementation science, followed by our three invited speakers from LMICs: Dr. Mimi Raesima, from Botswana; Dr. Soo Teo, from Malaysia; and Dr. Partha Basu, from the International Agency of Research on Cancer, who has worked extensively in India. This group presented cancer epidemiology data from their respective countries and explained lessons they have learned in their work, as well as future opportunities for growth in national level cancer screening programs. Dr. Stephen Taplin, NCI, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, concluded the morning session with his own experiences from the NCI, before participants broke into small groups to further connect with LMIC speakers.

The purpose of the breakout session was to unite speakers and participants, and provide an opportunity for them to discover the challenges of implementation science research within LMICs while discussing possible research questions in these countries. Twenty-two people participated, many of whom had recently initiated new collaborations on international projects with groups based in LMICs. I joined a group which included Dr. Mimi Raesima, National Cervical Cancer Program Manager at the Ministry of Health, Republic of Botswana, to learn more about her work in Botswana. As Mimi was describing the challenge she faces in working with populations who do not want to be screened for cancer, many group members piped up saying that they faced similar problems in the developed settings in which they worked every day. A link of commonality instantly formed between these individuals from opposite hemispheres as we continued to discuss Botswana’s cervical cancer screening program, motivations behind the project’s roll-out, and plans for evaluation and future actions.

This workshop proved to be a successful integration of LMIC work into the ICSN Meeting, and it is our hope that this is only the first step towards future global expansion of the Meeting’s scope.

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