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Cancer experts appeal for regional children cancer centers

UGANDA – Cancer experts are appealing for regional children cancer centers in the country. Currently, the only cancer treatment center for children is at Mulago National Referral Hospital.

Dr Fadhil Geriga, a Pediatric Oncologist at Mulago National Referral Hospital says, annually their catchment projection is 2000 cancer patients but have only been receiving 700 at the cancer center.

Geriga attributes the low treatment in-take to minimal awareness on cancer in children but also the costs that come along with taking a child to the national treatment center in Mulago hospital.

“The reason we have just 700 cases out of the catchment projection of 2000, is because of limited information. Most parents in Uganda are not aware that cancer can also affect children. For those whose children are diagnosed with cancer, they most times fear or shy away from taking their children to Mulago due to the costs attached to feeding, accommodation, treatment among others,” said Geriga.

Geriga also noted that, besides setting up regional cancer centers for children, there’s also need to train more experts in the said field.

He further says, some of the most common cancers in children they receive and treat at Mulago hospital include; cancer of the blood, eye, muscle and brain. These have had 80% recovery rate.

According to Geriga, for a complete cancer center to operate, there’s need for experts like Counsellors, Pediatricians and Radiologist, Oncologists, Chemotherapists, Surgeons, Social workers who should work as a unit.

He observed that currently most of these experts are spread across the various hospitals and health facilities and not working as a unit due to their limited numbers.

Paul Ebusa who works with the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) says, there’s also been a huge gap in treatment. Most of the children in Uganda have been receiving drugs meant for adult patients.

Ebusa says, most parents after realizing their children are unwell, they just rush to any clinic or health facility for treatment without proper examinations due to limited information on cancer in children and a poor referral system.

According to Ebusa, there’s also need for the civil society and policy makers to Fast track and push for the approval and implementation of the 2015 Cancer Control Plan which would help in raising more awareness and improve tremendously treatment of cancer in children in Uganda.

Chris Kwizera, who works with the Uganda Non-Communicable Disease Control says, elimination of cancer in children can only be achieved, if and when the treatment centers are decentralized for accessibility, more experts trained and awareness raised among Ugandans for correct, timely and effective treatment of cancer.

“We need to have our children brought for timely diagnosis and treatment along with evidence-based therapy or chemotherapy surgery, radio therapy as well as solid and liquid supportive care to the patients for us to eliminate cancer in children,” Kwizera explains.

Recently, Prime Minister, Robinah Nabanja launched the construction of a regional cancer institute in Gulu City.

According to the Global Cancer 2020 statistics, there are an estimated 19.3 million new cases, (18.1 million excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer and almost 10.0 million cancer deaths) worldwide.

An estimated 58.3% of cancer deaths are estimated to have occurred in Asia, Europe accounts for 22.8% of the total cancer cases and 19.6% of the cancer deaths, although it represents 9.7% of the global population, followed by Americas’ 20.9% of incidence and 14.2% of mortality worldwide.

In contrast to other regions, the share of cancer deaths in Asia (58.3%) and Africa (7.2%) are higher than the share of incidence 49.3% and 5.7% respectively.

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