By Mariam Namakula
Government has embarked on a plan to construct regional cancer treatment centers to reduce the surge in cancer cases, especially in children.
The project was revealed during a press conference at the Uganda media center on Thursday where officials from the Uganda Cancer Institute said there was need to construct regional cancer centers and the East Africa Oncology Centre of Excellence to improve access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the country.
According to Ms Christine Namulindwa, Public Relations Uganda Cancer Institute, only 30% of children diagnosed with cancer are able to seek medical attention. This has in turn resulted in 80% death out of 100 cancer cases reported due to late presentation and limited diagnosis.
Ms Namulindwa said 10 % of the cancer victims were children up to the age of 18 and that about 3,000 children were expected to develop cancer annually according to the 2018 Global Cancer Report in Uganda.
“With the help of the Ministry of Health, regional cancer centers are now taking shape and we have started with the Cancer Regional Center Of Northern Uganda, in Omoro District,” she said.
“Though there is ongoing treatment at the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, we have already purchased the land and other regional centers are going to be set up in Mbale for the eastern region and Arua for the West Nile Region. We have already started cancer screening at the Arua Regional Referral Hospital,” she added.
Ms Namulindwa also said in addition to regional referral hospitals, the construction of the East Africa Oncology Centre of Excellence will reduce the number of people seeking treatment from abroad.
“Cancer institute is currently training 198 cancer specialists who will be working at the different regional cancer centres,” she said.
The Uganda Cancer Institute is the only comprehensive childhood cancer treatment center in the country.
Dr Joyce Balagadde, a Paediatric Oncologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute, said children with cancer require very specific surgery from specific surgeons with about only six in Uganda, which was still low compared to what was needed in the country.
She said though global statistics indicate that eight out of 10 cancer patients were expected to get cured if diagnosed and treated early, unfortunately in low developing and middle countries only three were expected to cure.
“The challenges limiting treatment and the number of cures are among others, no diagnosis, misdiagnosis, treatment abandonment and sub optimal treatment, surgery struggles for paediatricians and lack of drugs,” Dr Balagadde said.
She added that although Uganda was not yet at an eight out of 10, it had one of the most survival rates in Africa and the Sub-Saharan with a scale of five out of 10.
Although the government had improved the state of equipment at the Uganda Cancer Institute to ensure early diagnosis and decentralization of service, a lot was still needed in the psychosocial support while at the fight against cancer.
Dr Balagadde said cancer signs include swelling but usually painless a white pupil in the eye and unexplained weight loss. These result in cancer of the blood (leukemia), (lymphomas), cancer of the kidney and muscle.