Cancer cases rising in Uganda, medic warns gov’t

MBARARA – Dr. Alfred Jatho from the Uganda Cancer Institute [UCI] has urged government to allocate more funds for prevention, screening, and treatment, warning the number of cases is increasing in the country.

In 2020, UCI statistics indicated a total of about 62,548 people in Uganda lived with cancer out of which 22,992 died mainly of cervical cancer.

Jatho who heads the department of community cancer services at UCI says children aged 0-14 years of age constitute 10 percent of cancer patients in Uganda. “Of all the total cancer cases shown above, children make an average of 10 percent in Uganda.”

While training journalists on cancer prevention and treatment in Sheema district days ago, Jatho attributed the increasing number of cancer cases in the country to poor diet, age, HIV prevalence, and belief in myths, and witchcraft.

“Cancer is not a new disease, but people have not been screening to know what is killing them. Many have been associating it with witchcraft,” Alfred said.

The oncologist added that the Health ministry has prioritised diseases like malaria, HIV, and others, leaving out cancer.

“HIV infection has been in Uganda for so many years and that’s where a lot of money is being sunk. Cancer has been killing people but for the last 10 years, very little money is allocated for its prevention and early detection,” Alfred said.

He said that even the little budget allocated to the cancer department is spent on structures instead of focusing on prevention, screening, and creating awareness.

“The released funds are unrelated to cancer treatment. It goes to construction, staff salaries, and buying expensive equipment yet we need money to tackle real issues like screening and creating awareness,” he said.

He also advocated for a national cancer control programme plan that he feels will extend cancer care down to the village level.

“There should be a kind of arrangement in the policy to address the emerging trend of cancer diseases in Uganda,” he said, adding “We urgently need a national cancer control programme that will let cancer control services be provided in the entire country level, not just at the UCI in Kampala.”

Evidence Orikunda, deputy resident district commissioner Sheema appealed to journalists to use their media platforms to sensitise and create awareness about public health.

“As media, you have the power to influence the public, so spread the gospel on causes of cancer to rescue our societies from danger,” Orikunda said.

However, George Tumwebaze, the Mayor of Kabwohe Division in Sheema Municipality warned the media against publishing negative stories about cancer patients, saying it can result in stigmatisation and death.

UCI has so far extended mass cancer camps for screening, diagnosis, treatment, sensitisation and creating awareness in areas of Kololo, Sheema among other places.

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