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80 percent of childhood cancers misdiagnosed-medics

FILE PHOTO: Dr Joyce Balagadde Kambugu

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 80 percent of all childhood cancers are misdiagnosed according to medics at the Uganda Cancer Institute. They say that most childhood cancers cannot be diagnosed by health workers in lower health facilities and as a result, children are subjected to treatment regimens that treat other ailments.

Cancer is estimated to affect more than 7,000 children in Uganda today. Records at UCI show that the incidence rate of childhood cancers is on the increase from 490 new cases in 2016 to 512 cases in 2017 and 600 cases in 2018. The most common cancers in children are leukemia, lymphomas, cancer of the kidneys and cancer of the muscle.

Dr Joyce Balagadde Kambugu, the Head of Pediatric Oncology at UCI says that many of the cancer patients admitted at the institute were misdiagnosed in the earlier stages of the disease. She adds many lives could be saved if the cancers are rightfully detected, diagnosed and treated in time.

Dr Balagadde says that misdiagnosis is common because most childhood cancers present with symptoms that mimic other diseases like malaria, tuberculosis or pneumonia.

30 percent of childhood cancers are cured at UCI. But according to Dr Balagadde, the rate of curing childhood cancers in Uganda is still very low because treatment regiments are often interrupted by the lack of drugs or surgical services at the hospital.

Gerald Mutungi, the head of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Health says they are planning to carry out training at all health center IIIs so that health workers can properly diagnose the disease.

Dr Jackson Orem, the Executive Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute says the institute is working towards increasing the number of cancer treatment options available for all age groups.

“We are expecting two new radiotherapy machines to increase on the availability of these services. We are also constructing surgical theaters to increase the number of operating theaters available for surgical interventions.”

The UCI, in collaboration with the health ministry, is also planning to open up Regional Cancer Treatment Centers to enable early diagnosis.

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