The Uganda Cancer Institute has laid a plan to strategize for better services offered to cancer patients in Uganda, with emphasis on promoting research and training locally.
According to Dr Nixon Niyonzima the head of research and training at UCI, this will enable the institute to treat cancers once realised at an early stage.
“We need to understand why our cancers are presenting much earlier in our population. For instance, breast cancer presents much earlier and is more aggressive in women of the African origin. Those are things that we need to invest in as a country because they affect us. There is need to understand and develop solutions,” Niyonzima said.
He also noted that understanding these challenges is the only way cancers can be cured and the life expectancy of the population increased.
Traditional medicines in cancer treatment
Uganda has a Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory headed by Dr. Grace Nambatya. This is under the National Drug Authority.
According to Niyonzima, traditional medicines are not encouraged because less is known about them, more so, the components of there in.
“We recommend more intense studies of these medicines so we can actually find out if herbal drugs have any effect on the cancers. We need to understand their impact before we recommend it to patients,” he emphasized.
Increasing Cancer Care and life expectancy through training
Dr. Jackson Orem, the Executive Director Uganda Cancer Institute said, “Unlike other countries where cancer is considered a disease of the elderly, in Uganda, cancer is a disease of the very young population. The peak of our incidents as far as cancer is concerned is not in the 70s and 80s, but rather in the 40s and 50s.”
The good news is, he said, with that kind of population, the institute is able to treat patients effectively, with ability to increase one’s survival, cure a good number and give a meaningful quality life to the population.
He called for more support to invest in research and training which will increase cancer care, cure most cancers rather than mere increase of years of survival.
Centre of Excellence
It should be noted that the construction of an oncology centre of excellence at UCI is ongoing at Mulago hill.
This is aimed at ensuring that ordinary Ugandans get world class cancer care in Uganda without attendant costs and without necessarily having to leave the country.
“The plan of the UCI is to have one centre of excellence at Mulago and regional cancer centres in different parts of the country,” Dr Niyonzima added.
UCI plans to have 4 regional cancer centres. Mbarara regional centre is already operational at MUST, Arua, Gulu is to start construction this year and Mbale.
He said that there will be coordination of cancer services in those areas in different districts to reduce time and costs incurred in seeking care.
“For one of the blocks, we are already on the 6th floor and we hope by next year, we shall have a super structure,” he confirmed.