Conrad Tankou is a Cameroonian physician seeking to improve the survival or quality of life of women in deprived communities suffering from breast and cervical cancer by replacing expensive scanning devices with a smartphone-based service for early detection.
After training as a physician, Tankou was posted to a poor community in rural Cameroon where he spent most of his time treating patients with malaria, dysentery and other infections. Six years ago, a woman came to his office complaining of abdominal pains, according to a report by bird story agency.
After examining her, Tankou suspected cervical cancer and asked her to run further tests. His suspicion was confirmed after those tests. His challenge now was how to provide urgent care to the patient. The healthcare facilities in his community were in a poor state.
There are many patients with cervical cancer who are not seeking early treatment, Tankou noted, adding that only five percent of women at risk of developing breast and cervical cancer are regularly and effectively being tested.
“I just asked myself what I was doing here if I couldn’t provide my patients with the most basic relief they were seeking,” he said. “I think that when you are a doctor, you must overcome those difficulties and do everything to assist your patients. To be complaining and criticizing the wrong is not efficient, you should try to bring about a solution to the problem.”
To bring hope to poor women suffering the burden of breast and cervical cancer in his community, he developed a smartphone-based service for early detection of cervical cancer. He led a team to create a set comprising a mobile app and other portable devices of their own making – a smart speculum, a smartphone-digital microscope, a biopsy device and a telemedicine platform, according to bird.
He labeled his invention Gicmed, which “allows a trained operator to examine a woman’s cervix and breast, and transmit the images and data it has captured to a specialist located anywhere in the world.”
Usually, the diagnosis is delivered within 24 hours, where it would have taken several weeks when using multi-million dollar scanners. So far, the physician has piloted his invention in 23 remote healthcare facilities and has reached more than 10,000 women. According to him, the feedback has been encouraging.
“For example, we had a good feedback from women in Bomono, a small community 15 minutes north from Douala. Thanks to the smartphone, women could see the image of their own cervix for the first time and they were very responsive to that. They would compare it with the image of a healthy cervix and they would get an idea of their own health status,” he said.
His device recently caught the attention of the international committee. He was named winner of the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2021, obtaining a $50,000 grant. He also got first prize in the African Health Innovative Challenge that helps advance promising health care solutions.
His invention is expected to be commercialized after clinical trials to seek validation.