By Alex Baluku
Uganda is continuing to decentralize cancer health care in the country as cases are on the increase.
The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) in a statement said there is an increasing burden of cancer.
“It is estimated that for every 100 new cases diagnosed, 80 of them die majorly because they come to our health facilities late,” the statement said. “This is mainly due to lack of access to cancer services within close proximity of the population,” it added.
UCI figures show that annually, over 7,000 cases are registered at the Institute. The commonest cancers are breast and cervical cancers among women, leukemia and lymphomas among children, prostate among men and Kaposi’s sarcoma among men and women combined.
“Sixty percent of these cancers are infection-related in Uganda. Unlike in the developed world, where cancers are majorly due to lifestyle changes, here they are basically about infections,” the statement said.
In order to address the burden, the Ministry of Health said several cancer services are being decentralized at least up to the regional level.
A cancer center is being constructed in northern Uganda and upon completion and operationalization, it will cater to treatment needs and also raise cancer awareness among the public and carry out research.
The Health ministry said services would soon be extended to Mbarara, which serves western Uganda, Arua, which services northwestern Uganda, and Mbale, which serves the eastern part of the country.
Previously patients were traveling all the way to UCI in the capital Kampala to access care services.
“As government we believe that this move will greatly improve on access to cancer services in our country. Our focus now as a country should be in creating cancer awareness so that people do not die with the disease because they had no idea that they had cancer,” the ministry said.
The UCI is also constructing the East Africa Oncology Center of Excellency, which will increase the capacity for cancer care, training and research in the region.
The ministry said currently 198 cancer experts are being trained in different fields to diagnose and manage cancer, undertake cutting edge cancer research and offer training in cancer across the country.
With support from the African Development Bank, UCI is working on establishing a National Reference Laboratory for Cancer which will improve cancer diagnosis and other non-communicable diseases.
“Once this center is fully functional, it will reduce the health revenue flight out of the East African region as it is anticipated that individuals who have been seeking highly sophisticated cancer treatment in developed countries will come to the UCI,” the statement said.
Government has also stocked different cancer treatment drugs and machines at UCI as it strives to fight the cancers.