Dr. Jackson Orem, the director of UCI has said that Uganda has so far saved Shs15 billion from the time the radiotherapy machine was commissioned in the country.
He made the statement while addressing the media as UCI launched a sensitisation campaign to educate the Ugandan masses on cancer detection, prevention, treatment and research findings.
Government has also established regional centres in Mbarara, Gulu, Mbale and Arua to ease access to cancer services, according to Dr Nixon Mugisha of the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).
Dr Mugisha said one of the two Cobalt 60 machines Uganda received from the Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi will be used in Mbrarara Referral Hospital and the other in another hospital yet to be identified.
However, he said there was need to train human resource to handle cancer patients. “We are training 31 people for Oncology, some for radiation oncology, pathology,” he said.
The summary of cancer statistics at UCI for the year 2017 shows that there were 5,060 new cases, 60,000 in-patients and 64,970 out-patients.
According to Dr. Mugisha, every year, UCI gets 450 new childhood cases with cancer.
Data also shows that during that year 2017, UCI carried out 29,000 radiotherapy sessions, 154,800 laboratory investigations, 40,300 imaging investigations and 86,400 chemotherapies.
“Early detection and treatment can help you defeat cancer. Regular checkup is mandatory. Men above 45, you should screen regularly for cancer especially prostate cancer,” said Dr. Diana Atwine the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary.
Dr. Atwine encouraged women to regularly check their breasts. “You should look out for symptoms such as discharge from the nipples, lumps in the breast- and proceed for mammogram. You should take this upon yourself,” she said.
She urged Ugandans to eat more of the traditional foods such as boiled cassava, kalo (millet), which she says are the best in preventing cancer. “They are healthy. We need to eat more of our own foods- this helps in preventing cancer. Stop alcohol/tobacco consumption,” she said.
“Aflatoxins are a problem in Uganda and predisposing factor for cancer,” she says. She added: “We just buy groundnuts from the market not knowing what it has been exposed to. The best groundnuts are ones in the shell. Personally, I buy groundnuts that are in the shell as these are safe.”
According to Dr. Orem, UCI receives patients from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and South Sudan among others. “We provide excellent services for the wanaichi and this has earned us title of “Center of Excellence in East Africa,” he said.
Apparently, UCI occasionally goes out of their way to do screening among members of the public but they need more highly trained staff to treat their patients. They also need infrastructure, equipment & financing of budget constraints.
Most common cancers in Uganda are Breast, Cervical and Prostate cancer