Cancer Institute halts radiotherapy services

Thursday October 10 2019

Clarity. (Left to Right), The executive

Clarity. (Left to Right), The executive director of Uganda Cancer Institute, Mr Jackson Orem and the head of department, Dr Daniel Kanyike, explain how the new linear accelerator machine works in 2017. Cancer patients will not be receiving radiotherapy services until next week. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 


Cancer patients in the country will not be receiving radiotherapy services until next week when routine maintenance of the machine is expected to be complete.
Radiotherapy is a mode of treatment which kills and stops cancer cells from growing by use of high-energy rays.
A statement issued on September 24, by the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), indicated that a Czech Republic engineer was expected in the country two weeks back: “This is to inform you that there will be an interruption in service delivery during this time as the machine is undergoing service.”

Ms Christine Namulindwa, the UCI spokesperson, said the machine had not broken down as was the case in the past.
“The engineer came already. This is different from the case of fault because we are able to schedule [sessions for each patient] according to need. Those who needed urgent services were managed before halting the services,” Ms Namulindwa said on Tuesday.
The Shs2.7 billion machine in August last year started registering “error” during operation hardly two months after its repair following a similar breakdown in June.

Caregivers then reported that more than 2,000 cancer patients remained in pain and distress without effective alternative treatment.
The more advanced and highly computerised version, which is the only one in the country and the linear accelerator machine, have not started working. The latter machines are waiting for the construction of their respective bankers to be completed.
The cobalt 60 machine under maintenance is the one which was installed in 2017 following the breakdown of the old radiotherapy machine in March 2016. This also left more than 4,000 cancer patients in a situation of despair.

Although majority of the patients were switched to chemotherapy as an alternative treatment, it is not as effective.
The use of chemotherapy may damage body parts such as the kidney and liver whereas radiotherapy localises treatment without affecting other parts of the body.