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Free breast cancer screening for rural women using AI, mobile ambulance in Maharashtra's Solapur

Instead of waiting for them to come forward, it was decided to reach out to them, which led to the inception of 'Project Nidan' which was started in March, Zilla Parishad Chief Executive Officer Manisha Awhale told PTI.
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 05:10 IST
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 05:10 IST

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Maharashtra: In a bid to improve women's health in rural areas, the Solapur Zilla Parishad in Maharashtra has launched a project for free breast cancer screening using portable equipment and Artificial Intelligence through a mobile ambulance.

Women in rural areas are often too shy to go for such screenings.

Hence, instead of waiting for them to come forward, it was decided to reach out to them, which led to the inception of 'Project Nidan' which was started in March, Zilla Parishad Chief Executive Officer Manisha Awhale told PTI.

"We have equipped a dedicated ambulance for the screening and diagnosis of breast cancer. A start-up called Niramai has developed a non-invasive technology, and the equipment provided by them is portable and can be used anywhere. We have fitted this machine into an ambulance, and using the AI and thermal technology, the machine detects breast cancer tumours," she said.

The project, conceptualised by Awhale, is designed to address the high prevalence of breast cancer among women, particularly in areas where access to healthcare facilities is limited, she said.

Under the project, free breast cancer screening is being provided in rural and urban areas of the Solapur district, benefiting hundreds of women, the official said.

Awhale stressed on the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

"The prevalence of breast cancer among women is high. In my family also, we have suffered a lot due to cases of breast cancer, which motivated me to raise awareness in this area," she said.

The project was started in March with the aim of reaching out to 7 lakh women in the district. So far, the ambulance has travelled more than 1,000 kilometres and screened approximately 5,000 women, Awhale said.

Among them, 64 cases were found to be suspicious (of cancer) in the thermal screening and mammography. Three cases have been found positive and the patients are currently under medical follow-up, she said.

The initiative is not only aimed at providing free diagnoses but also to offer treatment if cancer cases are detected during the screening.

"If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, it significantly reduces the need for extensive treatments, like chemotherapy, and lowers medical expenses. The machine takes only about 15 minutes to screen one person," Awhale said.

All Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the district have been informed of the project and are involved in spreading awareness about it.

"We have procured mammography and sonography machines, which are stationed at the civil hospital where a visiting oncologist is available. Anyone suspected of having a tumor during the initial screening is referred to this centre for further examination," Awhale said.

A budget of Rs 20,000 per woman has been allocated for these tests, with a total project budget of Rs 20 lakh. The initiative ensures comprehensive care - from initial screening to diagnosis and treatment, she said.

To maximize its outreach, the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers have been trained to perform primary inspections and refer any suspected case of cancer to the PHCs, she said.

"Our goal is to reach out to as many women as possible and ensure they are provided the necessary screening and follow-up care," Awhale said.

She expressed hope that the initiative will offer timely and accessible breast cancer screening and raise awareness about the importance of its early detection and treatment.

As more and more women are getting screened, oncologists in the district have been coming forward to associate with the project, she added.

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Published 02 June 2024, 05:10 IST

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