In the early hours of Saturday morning, some cancer patients are resting under trees at Budaka Health Centre IV while others are in the outpatient department. One of them is Mr Lawrence Kisaale, a 50-year-old father of five children.
Formerly a farmer from Nakajete Village, Macholi Ward in Budaka District, Mr Kisaale has given up the hoe for endless doctors’ visits.
The recurring pain in his abdomen for the past two years has left him no option.
“What started like a small pain worsened despite visiting health units. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer but unfortunately, I have failed to get Shs5m for an operation,” Mr Kisaale says.
He started visiting several health facilities, especially Budaka Health Centre IV, in 2018 hoping to find a remedy.
“I got some treatment and felt okay but after three months, the situation reoccurred and I had to go back to Budaka Health Centre IV for further examination,” Mr Kisaale says.
“The situation was not getting any better. I decided to move to Mbale general clinic and underwent treatment for a month but still there wasn’t any change. I decided to move to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital,” he narrates.
Doctors ordered him to undergo an X-ray examination but nothing was detected yet his pain worsened.
“I was advised to seek Dr Samson Mugondhi, who owns a private hospital, but still there was no change. I had to go back to Mbale hospital, and was admitted to Masaba wing, where two tests were conducted in 2019,” Mr Kisaale says.
Doctors diagnosed him with prostate cancer and put him on another phase of treatment.
“I felt okay but in May 2019, the pain reoccurred and I had to go to Mt Elgon Hospital, where a one Dr Kirya, started me on treatment,” he says.
When Mr Kisaale went back for a review in July, the doctor was reported out of the country.
Three months later, he returned to the hospital where he received more treatment until June this year. Unfortunately, his condition remained the same.
“I was advised to go to St Francis Hospital Nsambya and a number of tests were done on August 14 and August 22 which confirmed that it was prostate cancer,” Mr Kisaale says.
The cancer is associated with minimal physical activity and presents itself in signs and symptoms such as difficulty in passing urine because of an enlarged prostate and blood in urine.
In order to get permanent relief, doctors suggested that he undergoes an operation which would cost Shs5 million.
“But I had sold almost everything. I had no money, so I decided to return home until I get it,” Mr Kisaale says.
He had earlier spent Shs1.5 million at Nsambya hospital which he raised from selling his livestock.
Now he is finacially drained and fears that he might not meet his children’s school fees.
“Part of my body is paralysed and weak to the extent that I can no longer do any productive activities to sustain my family as well as meet my medical bills,” he says.
Many of his relatives and residents have also shunned him.
“People fear to come close to me thinking that I may infect them and yet this isn’t the case. It has traumatised me and my family,” says Mr Kisaale.
Sometimes the 50-year-old has had to endure the pain in silence because he cannot raise money for hospital visits.
“The only time I visit the health facility or hospital is after raising money for treatment either through selling some animals or house property. In some cases, I get simple relief but because of failure to comply with doctor’s advice, the pain resurrects,” he says.
“I think what remains is death. I would be seeing some change but unfortunately, the status quo remains the same,” he adds.
Although Mr Kisaale has appealed to good samaritans for financial assistance, he has not yet got any help.
“Even my relatives are tired of my endless requests. One could think of committing suicide but after enduring the situation, I am not afraid to die. What is likely to cause my death is lack of money for treatment because all services and drugs need money. I have left it in the hands of God,” he concludes.
Prostrate cancer most common among men
Dr Noleb Mugisha, an oncologist at Uganda Cancer Institute, says different cancers are more common in different age groups and gender.
Dr Mugisha says the institute receives between 15 and 30 new cancer patients per day.
Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer among men in Uganda, and the leading cause of cancer mortality among men.
In 2018, there were 2,086 new cases of prostate cancer and approximately 1,177 deaths.
Risk factors include increasing age, family history, high fat diet, especially dairy products. The cancer is associated with minimal physical activity.
Signs of prostate cancer include difficulty in passing urine because of an enlarged prostate. Men above the age of 40 years are at high risk to get the disease.
There are more than 60,000 cases of cancer per year in the country, of which 25,000 are incident cases.
Each year, about 22,000 deaths occur in the country due to cancer.
In addition, the risk of cancer before the age of 65 years is 10 per cent, and in the next five years, it is estimated that there will be 80,000 cancer cases in the country at any one time.
The trends are also observed at the UCI, where almost 80 per cent of patients present the disease in advanced stages, hence limited interventions to prolong survival.