Mthatha campus of Walter Sisulu University, NMD site. Photo: DELIVERED
Lecturers from WALTER Sisulu University (WSU) have teamed up with the institution’s computer science students to develop the world’s first mobile application for the early detection of esophageal cancer.
The Oesophageal Cancer Screening (ECAS) is a joint project of the WSU, the University of Venda (Univen) and the Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The medical innovation was a two-part project, with phase one examining the performance and safety of the app with the support of the first group students.
“The research shows that the app is secure and has many features befitting the type of network we have in rural areas. In places where there is no network, the app information is stored locally on the cell phone, so a person can continue to use it offline,” said information technology lecturer Tamba Tamba.
In the second part of the project, the students focused on the app’s usability by examining colors, fonts, and accessibility for different people.
“Esophageal cancer is a silent disease. It has no symptoms and by the time you feel pain, the cancer is already at an advanced stage. As silent as it is, it is also an aggressive disease,” said Professor Eugene Ndebia. Ndebia further suggested that early detection is the best way to treat the disease so that action can be taken to save the patient.
Esophageal cancer has two types. The first type is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of esophageal cancer begins in squamous epithelial cells that line the esophagus. It usually develops in the upper and middle part of the esophagus; it is the most common esophageal cancer in the Eastern Cape.
The second type, adenocarcinoma, begins in the glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus where the esophagus and stomach meet.
“For all other types of cancer, there are screening apps and testing options. One such case is cervical cancer, which can be tested by a pap smear, but esophageal cancer has nothing. Our application will be the first in the world. We will use technology to save the world,” added Ndebia.
The ECAS application is available for download on the Google Playstore and can be used from the comfort of your own home.
“It’s high time our researchers focused on the diseases that plague us humans. When I was a medical student in Durban, most patients with esophageal cancer came from the Eastern Cape,” said Professor Jabu Mbokazi, Dean of WSU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
Mbokazi added that the secret to treating all types of cancer is early detection, and in some cases it can even be cured. He also said he hoped the app would be able to detect esophageal cancer in its early stages so patients can get help before the disease gets out of control.
“Being at WSU and being in the rural areas is a great place for research. Most of the funds are sent to places like Cape Town, although the burden of disease is here in the Eastern Cape. If we could get those funds, we would do more,” Mbokazi concluded.
The Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, Prof. Bongani Bantwini, looked back on the days when he was a professor in the United States. Bantwini said he discovered that people in Africa were dying from diseases that don’t kill people in other parts of the world because academics speak a language not understood by people affected by the diseases.
“We will translate the results into different languages so that they can be understood not only by scientists but also by communities. If you’re doing research that doesn’t benefit the community, then what’s the point of doing that research,” Bantwini said.
He added that his faculty teaches different languages, including sign language, and they will translate the results as best they can so as not to miss any community.
dr Nelly Sharpley, Associate Professor of Sociology at WSU, said: “Our goal is not only to conduct research as WSU and Univen, but to conduct research that impacts the implementation of the goals of a healthy society and also for development in ours Society speaks provinces and communities.”
The application will continue to be translated into various African languages through the partnership to make it accessible to all.
– ISSUED BY WALTER SISULU UNIVERSITY