Establishing the first one-stop breast cancer clinic in Zambia

Mercy Nachalwe Chipampe is a 2009 Chevening Scholar and a leading expert in radiography and mammography. She has made innovative strides in early cancer detection and treatment in Zambia.

After a fifteen-year career in radiography and radiation therapy, in 2009 Mercy embarked on an MSc in Diagnostic Radiography on a Chevening Scholarship at the University of Cardiff. The knowledge and skills gained through this degree helped her to progress to the post of Principal Radiographer at Lusaka’s Cancer Diseases Hospital and helped her to establish Zambia’s first one-stop breast clinic in Lusaka, an initiative which was later rolled out across the country to Zambia’s nine provincial hospitals.

What were you doing before Chevening? What were your career aspirations at the time?

I had been working as a radiographer at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka since it opened its doors in 2006. The early cohorts of patients that we treated had very advanced stages of cancer that had spread due to late diagnosis and treatment. I found this very demoralising and became determined to advance my studies and learn more about early detection and more effective methods of treatment.

What made you apply for Chevening?

I knew that the United Kingdom was a leader in the field of radiography and early detection of breast cancer through the use of mammography. I thought that the hospital could benefit hugely from my exposure to these new skills and processes. I felt that I could not continue treating patients that were just coming to the hospital to die. I wanted to gain the skills needed to detect diseases early, offer treatment to women, and give them a chance to live.

What is the most important thing you learned during your Chevening experience?

In the UK, I engaged with a variety of healthcare professionals and was exposed to several new procedures and techniques. After returning to Zambia, I set out to apply what I had learned, but adapting it to the local context. With my team at the Cancer Diseases Hospital, I set up a one-stop breast clinic in Lusaka, encouraging women to come in for screening. Following the success of the Lusaka clinic, this initiative was rolled out to the nine provincial hospitals of Zambia. As the only trained mammographer in the country, I was appointed as the ‘trainer of trainers’, for radiographers throughout.

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