Seattle doctor to launch breast cancer detection project in Uganda

As an example of how cancer is no longer viewed solely as a health care issue of the rich world, a physician from Seattle plans to launch a pilot project studying the use of portable ultrasound for breast cancer diagnosis in Uganda.

Dr. Constance Lehman, a radiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wants to see if using the device in selected communities can improve detection and treatment success rates of this common cancer and killer.

“In developing countries, breast cancer is detected much later than in countries with established screening programs,” Lehman said in the statement announcing her project. Her goal is much earlier detection with referral to the Uganda Cancer Institute, a research and treatment facility Fred Hutch helped establish in 2008 in Kampala.

“In addition to social stigma and shame associated with a breast cancer diagnosis, many barriers impact Ugandan women’s access to care,” Lehman said. “By the time these women arrive at the Uganda Cancer Institute, in most cases their breast cancers are advanced, and treatment options are limited. At this time, most women diagnosed with breast cancer in Uganda do not survive.”

The ultrasound breast cancer diagnosis study is being funded by a grant from GE called the “Healthymagination Cancer Challenge.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and has been gaining recognition as a threat that needs addressing in the global health field, which has traditionally not focused on chronic diseases of the rich world.


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.