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Late diagnosis hinders fight against cancer

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Traditional dancers entertain guests during the ground-breaking ceremony for the cancer facility in Mulago yesterday.

Traditional dancers entertain guests during the ground-breaking ceremony for the cancer facility in Mulago yesterday. Photo by Ismail Kezaala  

By Flavia, Lanyero

Posted  Wednesday, October 5   2011 at  00:00
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For every 10 patients diagnosed with cancer only two are cured while the remaining eight die of the disease due to inadequate access to cancer treatment, experts have said. At any given time, there at least 200 new infections for every 100,000 people, a rate that is indisputably increasing the disease burden in the population in addition to those already battling with the disease.

Even though some significant funding has been channeled to combat the disease, the Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, Dr Jackson Orem, said the burden of the disease keeps increasing with kaposi sarcoma and prostate cancer being the leading cancer infections but in women it is cervical cancer.

Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony for the $ 3.5m Uganda Cancer Institute /Hutchinson Clinic and Training Institute at Mulago yesterday, Dr Orem said the biggest challenge the institution faces is inadequate funding which has disabled them from early screening and purchasing cancer drugs.

Insufficient drugs, according to the board chairman Uganda Cancer Institute, Prof. Charles Olweny, have rendered most cancer treatments irrelevant and patients becoming drug resistant as the cancer cannot cure with a substituted or missed drug.

“The staff of the National Medical Stores does not appreciate cancer treatment which follows strict protocol and no substitution of drugs, response rates to drugs has gone down because patients have opted to buy cheap generic drugs,” Prof. Olweny said.

In a speech read for him by the Vice President Edward Ssekandi, President Museveni acknowledged that cancer is a fast growing disease in the country with a late-stage diagnosis and lack of access to care.

“The economic burden of cancer for Uganda is high. A majority of our cancer patients are relatively young compared to those in developed countries, we are losing people to cancer who are in their prime lives, there is great need to combat this challenge,” the President said.