Cancer ranks high among the lethal ailments globally. While prevention would be a more viable option, cancer is also manageable. Currently, the government is taking its cancer management approaches closer to Ugandans.
We believe essential interventions like cancer diagnosis, risk factors, prevention and treatment are best if easily accessible. Currently, through Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) - Mulago National Referral Hospital, the government is extending these interventions across the country.
In 2013, UCI provided cancer-related clinical care, nutritional and psycho-social support to 43,640 people.
A Mobile Cancer and Continuity Clinic (MCCC) was established under the institute. Its mobility enables improved cancer diagnosis, referrals and enhanced management of patients, including those outside heath facilities. Ugandans’ response to the MCCC is encouraging, since people are increasingly turning up for voluntary cancer screening. This is important because cancer is often detectable even before symptoms develop.
Today, we have adequately equipped functional cancer units at Mbarara and Arua regional referral hospitals. From this outreach, in 2013, 160 cancer patients were registered in Mbarara, Arua and the surrounding areas. Elsewhere, UCI reached northern, eastern, western and central Uganda, to provide cancer education, screening and early diagnosis.
UCI’s outreach teams have also unearthed some disturbing instances in which family members conceal relatives suffering from cancer. To fight this stigma, the institute set up a capacity building forum to extend education and counselling services with enhanced focus on communities and households.
Government is also restructuring UCI with emphasis on increasing the key personnel required for boosting its cancer outreach capacity. Early detection is a window towards better cancer management. Where it is detected early, survival is a possibility. Ugandans should, therefore, maximally tap into the expanded services of UCI. Women are encouraged to turn up, particularly for breast cancer screening. Government will continue strengthening UCI so that cancer management services are extended further throughout Uganda.
Ms Namayanja is the Minister of Information & National Guidance