The Mammobile goes calling in Algeria

Roche Algeria partners with patient group and mobile operator to make breast cancer screening available in remote desert areas

It’s a project that has been in the works for over two years. But with it finally taking off in February, Algeria has its first mobile breast cancer screening facility that will hopefully bring much needed topnotch facilities to far-flung desert areas. At the forefront of this effort are three partners – patient advocacy group El Amel (Hope), mobile phone operator Mobilis and the world’s largest cancer medicine producer, Roche.

Called the Mammobile, this unique partnership brings together the expertise of each of these three entities to bring screening facilities closer to the doorstep of women of this huge North African state where 3500 of every 10,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, die. El Amel is one of two national level breast cancer patient groups, while Mobilis has the bandwidth to reach customers all across Algeria with text alerts and other information to it subscribers. Roche’s Herceptin is the most prescribed breast cancer medicine in the country.

Remote areas neglected

“Algeria is the biggest country in Africa. Towns in the interior area are far away from each other with sparse population. This made it difficult for the health authorities build the necessary healthcare infrastructure to fight cancer,” explains Nora Bouzida, PAG & Media Manager in Roche Algeria.  For over 10 years El Amel worked with local health authorities and town leaders to bring about better awareness and highlight the increasing incidence of breast cancer and to have women go in for early screening.

“There were dozens of little caravans which aimed only to inform. But that was all they could do with their limited resources and reach. There were also dozens of oncology specialists at the National Reference Anti-Cancer Center at Algiers, who diagnosed hundreds of patients. But the remote areas spread out over the desert were not serviced very well,” Nora says.

Partnership takes roots

In 2010 El Amel started discussions with Roche to see if better awareness drives in these areas could be combined with screening facilities for women so they could be detected early and sent for treatment. It remained a dream as reaching out to these areas and informing the women and local communities still remained a challenge.  It was with the arrival of a mobile service provider that this issue was largely resolved.

The Mammobile was officially launched in February by Algeria’s minister of health and population. Speaking on the occasion, Roche Algeria Country Manager Lynda Boucherat stressed Roche’s commitment to the program: “Roche is ready to be a full partner in such projects with patient advocacy groups and the government with the aim to raise awareness and provide early diagnosis for women with breast cancer. We are proud to be the first pharmaceutical company in Algeria to get involved in such a project.” Roche will support El Amel in the training of local radiologists, nurses and other professionals involved in the screening operations. The team will also equip the Mammobile with all necessary software for mammography.  

The Mammobile is currently in the eastern region of Biskra where the target is to screen about 88,000 women. The target is to ultimately screen a million women in the whole country. The journey has just begun.