Give children the chance to fight cancer

Sunday October 03 2021
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Children who have survived cancer receive certificates from Dr Jackson Orem (2nd right), the director of Uganda Cancer Institute, in Kampala, yesterday. Photo | Shabibah Nakirigya.

By EDITOR

In a week that was dominated by many news events, the story of eight children being cured of cancer ought to be highlighted.

The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) gave the children, aged 18 and below, a clean bill of health following five years of treatment.

The cancer survivors include Murshid Muwonge, Brian Mwonha, Austine Sebulime, Ambrose Kavuma, and Nufaisha Nansubuga. Others are Catherine Namuyimbwa, Patience Aturinda, and Viola Nalwanga.

To hear that the recoveries were not accidental but as a result of an endeavour by the institute goes to give hope to many Ugandans that cancer can be beaten.

Dr Joyce Balagadde, the head of Paediatric Oncology Services at the Institute, says they are profiting from having a specialist surgeon for children. 

In the past UCI grappled with a big number of children in need of treatment as they relied on Mulago National Referral Hospital for surgeries. But the in-house surgeon, and availability of equipment such as a radiotherapy machine has, greatly improved care for the children.

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Every year, 3,000 children between the ages of 0 to 18 years are diagnosed with cancer. But only 25 per cent, or 750 of these, are treated at the cancer treatment centres, UCI experts say.
Meaning, the other 2,250 children are left to face the disease without the support of health professionals.

The cure of these eight children this week ought to remind parents out there that cancer can be beaten. In Uganda, the survival rate for children is at 50 per cent, compared to the global rate of 80 per cent.
 
This means parents should give their children a fighting chance. Cancer treatment can be done in different forms depending on the stages of the disease. This can be through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and supportive care. 

The success story also tells us that with the right investment, both in equipment and personnel, we can handle most of these treatments at home without necessarily having to refer our cancer patients abroad. 

The recruitment of a specialist surgeon for children, for instance, has had a great impact at the facility. Government needs to ensure that these highly-skilled specialists are groomed, and most importantly, retained.

But all these efforts can be effective only if one is diagnosed early. Experts say one’s chances of recovery are increased if the cancer is detected early and treatment started immediately. 

So always seek medical treatment if feel any abnormal growth and swelling in any part of your body, or as parents, you notice that in the children under your care.

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