Cancer Prevention in Sri Lanka

Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), namely cancers, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory
diseases and diabetes, are chronic, costly but largely preventable diseases. NCDs are the world’s number one killer, causing 60% of all deaths globally.

With non-communicable diseases accounting for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in 2009, described the global NCD epidemic as a “public health emergency in slow emotion.” He called upon the world’s businesses to help address NCDs, which are expected to increase by 50 percent in developing countries by 2030. NCDs account for roughly 75 percent of healthcare costs in both advanced and developing economies, according to the World Economic Forum.

A staggering 35 million people die every year from these silent killers, of which 18 million are women. NCDs represent the biggest threat to women’s health worldwide, increasingly impacting on women in developing countries in their most productive years. The costs of NCDs to families and societies are high and escalating, in terms of healthcare and lost productivity. For these reasons, NCDs have been identified as a global risk, and one of the most important threats to businesses and economies. The cost in human life and health is just one dimension of the global epidemic of non-communicable disease. Insufficient management of chronic illness can have a devastating impact on economic growth and productivity, especially in the world’s communities where access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment options are often severely limited.



Through a Rotary friendship visit to Sri Lanka in 2009, members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham heard about the dreams of Colombo Rotarians to build a clinic where the women of Sri Lanka could get mammograms free of charge. The Rotary Club of Colombo had started a breast cancer detection program to address the exceedingly high death rate among Sri Lankan women due to late presentation of breast cancer but they needed detection equipment and a dedicated facility. By purchasing a new mammography machine and sending it to the Rotary Club of Colombo, the Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Center opened its doors in 2011. Since then, Birmingham Rotarians have purchased and installed other detection equipment along with signage, medical supplies, and public awareness print pieces. We sponsored a visit by Birmingham Rotarian Dr. Ed Partridge (Director of UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and President of the American Cancer Society at the time) who engaged local oncologists, medical leaders from the National Cancer Control Programme, local community leaders and Sri Lankan Rotarians. Additionally, the Birmingham club sponsored a visit to Birmingham by the Sri Lankan medical personnel working on the project.

Because of the Rotary project, a total of approximately 33,000 women and men have been screened for breast cancer. Of that number, 8,000 were referred for further testing or treatment. Using funds from a DDF, the RCB purchased a server and custom software to begin recording patient data electronically and recording information for tracking patients tested for breast cancer and or other cancers.

Currently, The Rotary Club of Birmingham, along with Rotary club partners from three other countries, have been approved for and received a global grant from the Rotary International Foundation that provides a new mammography machine to expand the regional capabilities of the CP&EDC, two new digital processors to improve diagnoses, a new HPV/DNA testing machine to expand the types of cancer tested, 7,000 test kits for cervical cancer tests, and 5 hand held devices to use for the electronic recording of data. These have all been deployed to their respective sites. The Host Club partner is the Rotary Club of Colombo. The other partner clubs are the Rotary Club of Nurmberg-Sigena, Germany and the Rotary Club of Zurich-Sihltal, Switzerland.