Cervical cancer patients make up a large number of the patients on the HAU programme, this is due to in part a lack of awareness about cervical cancer, a discomfort with medical issues relating to women’s health, an inability to access accurate information about this and other cancers and the lack of access to appropriate and affordable testing and treatments.
With only one cancer centre in all of Uganda all cancer patients must travel to Kampala for treatment at Mulago National Referral Hospital. This poses challenges for many, especially those living in rural settings. Women in need of screening, investigations and treatment very often do not have access to these services in their community or the funds to travel to access these them. The Road to Care project was started in 2011 when Dr. Joda Kuk visited Hospice Africa Uganda and saw these needs facing women with cervical cancer in rural settings.
Road to Care was created to provide funds for investigations, treatment, transport, upkeep and accommodation for women with cervical cancer. The majority of the beneficiaries are identified by regional hospitals or other reproductive health services and referred to HAU. Women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer in stage one or two are referred to HAU to be put on the Read to Care programme; women diagnosed with cervical cancer in stage three or four are referred to HAU for palliative care. Those women enrolled on the RTC programme are assisted to make appointments at Mulago and then supported with funds for transport to Kampala and upkeep for the duration of their stay in Kampala, which can be up to two months. RTC also funds investigation, where needed, and treatment, including brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy. After initial treatment patients will return to their homes and well return twice, once for a final treatment and once for a final review, these trips generally occur over the course of six months.
This project is run in each of the three HAU hospices to support women in need, though there are slight variations with how it is implemented to ensure patient needs in each community are addressed appropriately. HAU works with many partners to ensure preventative information is available, screenings are done and access to investigations is provided. This highly successful project is helping to ensure fewer women with cervical cancer are coming to HAU for palliative care.