UCI to train more paediatric oncologists

Monday August 22 2016

By Beatrice Nakibuuka

The Uganda Cancer Institute(UCI) in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer and Haematology Centres have organised for a two-year training programme for the East Africa Peadiatric Haematology and Oncology fellowship training at the cancer institute. Under the theme “Every child deserves a chance,” the institute intends to improve health care services for children with cancer by training more personnel in the care and treatment of childhood cancer.

There are numerous childhood cancers but there is lack of specialised personnel in this field according to Dr Joyce Kambugu Balagadde, a peadiatric oncologist at Uganda Cancer Institute. The common cancers include; Burkitt’s lymphoma, Wilms tumour, Acute Leukemia, Kaposi Sarcoma, Hodgkins Lymphoma , Osteosarcoma (bone cancer), brain, and eye cancers.
Why the training?
Globally, 250,000 children are diagnosed with cancer annually and about 40 per cent of them die from cancer before they celebrate their first birthday. In Uganda, of the total number of cancer cases that are reported at the Uganda Cancer Institute per cent are children below 15 years which is a huge percentage compared to one percent in the developed countries. Moreover, 50 percent of these are dead after a year.

In developed countries, the survival rate of children with childhood cancers is 80 per cent yet in developing countries is only 10 per cent due to late diagnosis. There are 2,100 new child cancer cases every year from the Kyadondo Cancer Registry nationwide and 600 new cases of paediatric cancers are reported annually at the UCI.
According to Dr Joseph Lubega, a peadiatric oncologist at Texas Children’s hospital, the project worth $34 million, will enable effective and cost sustainable diagnosis, treatment and promote the health of children with cancers and blood diseases in East Africa.

From a comprehensive assessment of the state of paediatric haematology & oncology in Uganda held in June 2013, there is high cancer incidence among children with low survival rates; lack of cancer registries and a referral network, delays and disconnects in the referral system, low level of public awareness, inadequate infrastructure and resources.