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27,000 can’t access cancer treatment in Uganda

FILE PHOTO: Uganda Cancer Institute.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 27,000 people in the country do not access cancer treatment in Uganda. This is according the Uganda Cancer Institute.

According to doctors at the cancer institute, the number of patients that receive treatment at the facility is much lower than the number that does not receive treatment.

Data from the Global Cancer Observatory shows that annually, 32,000 new cancer patients are registered in Uganda. However, only 5,000 are on average received at UCI. Last year, the cancer treatment centre received a total of 4,996 new patients.

Dr Nixon Niyonzima the laboratory director and head of research and training UCI says that they receive a quarter of the cases that they should be treating at the institute.

He attributes the low number of patients seeking treatment to inadequate treatment facilities in the country.

Cancer can be treated either by using radiotherapy, chemotherapy or through surgery. Data from UCI shows that out of the 5,000 that seek treatment, 499 are estimated to be children while 4497 are adults suffering mainly from cervical cancer, breast cancer, prostate and karposis sarcoma.

Dr Joyce Balagadde Kamuddu says they receive few children due to lack of awareness about treatment at the centre.  She says most times parents sit with children with progressing cancers without knowing it.

Dr Niyonzima adds that due to the inadequate number of people able to access treatment, many patients are left to die or live in pain.

Data from the Kampala Cancer Registry, an estimated 22,000 people are believed to have succumbed to death due to cancer. Late diagnosis of the disease has been cited by doctors as the reason why most cancer patients pass away.

Dr Jackson Orem, the Executive Director UCI says that more than 80 percent of the patients they treat appear at the institute when their cancers are mature.

“Most people come to seek treatment when their cancers are in stage 4. We have very little to do except manage their pain. Chances of people recovering at this stage are low.”

Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the Minister of State for Primary Health care says that government is planning on increasing the number of cancer treatment facilities in different parts of the country.

“We are planning on setting up regional cancer treatment centres in Arua, Mbale and Gulu in addition to the facility in Mbarara now. We want people from all parts of the country to have easy access to cancer treatment.”

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