Contaminated food driving cancer cases in Northern Uganda

GULU – Contaminated food is partly responsible for the increase in the number of cancer cases in Northern Uganda, according to a medical expert.

Amos Obote, head of operations at Northern Uganda Regional Cancer Centre raised the concern in Gulu City on Friday while addressing the board members of The Uganda Heart Institute [UCI].

The UCI officials were on a visit to the Centre to assess its readiness in terms of human resources, equipment, and other materials needed to provide the much-needed cancer treatment services to the people of Northern Uganda.

Addressing UCI officials, Obote said food contamination arises from some of the agrochemicals pesticides being used in food production.

He said although there are other underlying factors such as Hepatitis B and HIV infections in the region, the consumption of chemicals in food has exposed the consumers to high health risks.

“The serious issue is about the use of agrochemicals in food production, which we need to regulate,” Obote said.

Northern Uganda Regional Cancer Centre, soon to be commissioned, is expected to offer comprehensive cancer care services, including cancer diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care.

The Centre is also expected to provide training and capacity building for the medical professionals and other personnel involved in cancer care.

Dr. Jackson Orem, the executive director of UCI noted that the Northern Uganda Regional Cancer Centre is a significant development in the provision of cancer care services in the country, especially for the people in Northern Uganda.

He further stressed the need for the Centre to be equipped with the necessary resources and expertise to provide quality health services to cancer patients.

‘’The establishment of the Gulu Regional Cancer Centre is part of the Uganda Cancer Institute’s strategy to decentralise cancer care services in the country. The Centre is expected to cater to the increasing demand for cancer services in the region and reduce the burden of cancer care on the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala,” added Prof. William Bazeyo, the UCI board chairperson.

Bazeyo explained that the Centre has an integrated digital system for diagnosis, monitoring, and testament of patients.

“We need to provide real-time treatment and we have digitally linked up this centre to the National Centre where patients shall be monitored jointly with specialists from both sides,” he said.

Further, Dr. Orem commended the Austrian Government for supporting Uganda’s health sector, particularly cancer management.

He said new cases of cancer in the country stand at 32,000 while 80 percent of the patients die due to late diagnosis.

Commenting on the establishment of the Centre, Orem said: “85 percent of the cancer patients we have at the National Cancer Institute at Mulago are from upcountry and that must tell you the need to bring the services close.”

He noted that only 4 percent of the patients who seek medical attention from UCI are aware of the condition while 96 of them are unaware due to the limited access to care and diagnosis.

According to health experts in the country, the most predominant cancer infections are cancer of the lymphatic system which accounts for 80 percent followed by cervical cancer at 58 percent and prostate cancer at 20 percent, liver cancer, and HIV-related cancer among others.

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