Pilot of an International Collaboration to Build Capacity to Provide Gynecologic Oncology Surgery in Botswana

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Abstract

Objectives

Gynecologic malignancies are the leading cause of cancer death among women in Botswana. Twenty-five percent of cervical cancers present at a stage that could be surgically cured; however, there are no gynecologic oncologists to provide radical surgeries. A sustainable model for delivery of advanced surgery is essential to advance treatment for gynecologic malignancies.

Methods/Materials

A model was developed to provide gynecologic oncology surgery in Botswana, delivered by US-based gynecologic oncologists in four 2-week blocks per year. A pilot gynecologic oncology campaign was planned at a district hospital. Eligible patients were identified through the gynecologic oncology multidisciplinary clinic at the regional referral hospital, where gynecologic oncology treatment planning is provided. Local providers were invited to participate to build local surgical capacity.

Results

One US-based gynecologic oncologist, 2 gynecologists, and 2 surgeons working in Botswana participated in the pilot campaign. Sixteen operations were performed over 7 days. Indications included cervical cancer (4), ovarian cancer (3), vulvar cancer (1), complex atypical hyperplasia (1), pre-invasive cervical disease (2), and benign disease (3), as well as 2 obstetric emergencies. The only gynecologic oncology complication was a case of bleeding requiring transfusion and postoperative intensive care unit admission. Follow-up care was coordinated through the gynecologic oncology multidisciplinary clinic.

Conclusions

Periodic gynecologic oncology campaigns in settings otherwise lacking local capacity to perform advanced surgery are a feasible model to create access and build local capacity. Strong local collaboration is essential. Future strategies to increase impact include recruitment of more gynecologic oncologists to increase service and training availability.

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