Downstaging Breast Cancer with Education and Training

Breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of women worldwide. In Tanzania, there are no population-based screening programs, and many frontline healthcare providers have not received any formal breast cancer education. When a diagnosis is made, palliative care is often the only treatment option; and mortality is unacceptably high.

To bridge this gap, Tara Rick, PA-C, led a team of three certified PAs that delivered a breast cancer training program. Presented to more than 150 healthcare providers across two sites, the program focused on risk factor education, signs and symptoms of breast cancer, breast exam, and referral. The program included a didactic and lab component, and physicians and nurses as well as clinical officers or assistant medical officers, who function in PA-like roles, participated in the training.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to execute this project with the goal of improving healthcare provider awareness and knowledge of breast cancer and to diagnose these cancers at an earlier stage in which treatment is possible,” said Rick.

A pre- and post-survey documented the impact. Over half of the participants reported having never received any prior breast cancer education, but 80% acknowledged having seen patients with potential problems in their practice. Participants reported increased confidence in their knowledge of breast cancer as well as the skills needed for breast exams.

The program also generated interest in opportunities to assist with additional screening programs to support downstaging cervical and other cancers.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.

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