Pathologists warn hospitals on ‘fake’ cancer samples

Thursday May 16 2019

Facility. Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago,

Facility. Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago, Kampala. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Damali Mukhaye

KAMPALA: Clinicians in hospitals across the country are mishandling the samples from the cancer patients, which has led to wrong tests and diagnosis by pathologists, it has emerged.

Dr Godfrey Gemagalne, a consultant pathologists at Naguru Hospital said that most clinicians who carry out samples from cancer patients have been doing it wrongly hence compromising the quality of results.

He said that if the cancer samples are taken without following the internationally recognised standards, the pathologist will also make a wrong diagnosis to a patient because the samples were faked or mishandled at the grassroots by the responsible officers.

“From our analysis, we have established that the problem is coming from the hospitals. If a clinician fails to identify the patient with cancer, take samples the right way, package it well and properly transport it to the laboratory, the results will automatically be wrong.” Mr Gemagalne said.

Mr Gemagalne was speaking at Uganda Cancer Institute at Mulago National Referral Hospital on Wednesday during the launch of the regional pathology training that seeks to improve cancer diagnosis and care in the country.

The planned training targets surgeons, gynecologists, midwives, and laboratory personals and at least five doctors from each hospital will be trained how to handle cancer samples.


Mr Gemagalne noted that they have been receiving cases of clinicians sending samples of cancer patients without names; sending request forms without patient's samples while some clinicians have been putting the samples in the wrong chemicals.

“When this sample gets wet, they get rotten and when they are spoiled, we discard them since they have no value. This means that clinicians will have to go back to the patient to get another sample putting the life of a patient with cancer in danger if she or he has to get treatment at an early stage,” Mr Gemagalne said

The Acting Commissioner National Health Laboratory Services and Chief Government Pathologist, Ms Susan Nabadda told Daily Monitor that they have launched a nation-wide campaign to train all the medical staff from all hospitals specially those who handle cancer patients. The training focuses on how to collect standard samples.

“We want to reduce the cases of mishandling cancer samples in the country right from the start to make sure that the collection of the sample is right, transport it to the lab properly so that it is read right by the pathologist to make the right diagnosis comes out for the right patient,” Ms Nabadda said.

She also explained that since cancer is one of the disease leading to deaths in Uganda, this training will see the clinicians do the right things and cancer patients will be diagnosed to treatment when their conditions have not worsened.

Ms Nabadda defines a pathologist as a medical personnel who tests samples of patients to establish whether he or she has cancer or any other disease based on the laboratory analysis of either blood urine or body tissues.

She revealed that Uganda currently has only 24 pathologists across the country but Mr Gemagalne said that only 10 are active while others resigned [over low pay] and other are still students.
The pathologists who spoke to Daily Monitor called for more funding and scholarship to increase on the number of pathologists since the number of cancer patients is on the rise.

The permanent secretary at ministry of health, Diana Atwiine said that accurate diagnosis is crucial in the fight against cancer and asked all the medical personals to ensure that everything is done in the right way since treatment depends on correct diagnosis.