Only 30% of cancer in children diagnosed in Uganda – UCI

Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu
Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu, a Consultant and Head of Pediatric Oncology at Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI)

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The number of children diagnosed with cancer in Uganda is still very low according to Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu, a Consultant and Head of Pediatric Oncology at Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) says only 30% of children with cancer and cancer-related ailments get to the hospital and are diagnosed in Uganda.

She also cites the major problems associated with cancer illness namely lack of proper knowledge about cancer in Uganda, parents who fail to test early for cancer among their children, high cost of treatment of cancer among children with cancer, social – cultural beliefs among people in communities about cancer and  abandonment of treatment.

According to UCI statistics, more than 6,000 children are affected with cancer in the country, but less than 2,000 have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment.

Dr. Samuel Guma, Chairman Uganda Cancer Society (UCS) says most of the families from rural areas who are poor and disadvantaged find it difficult to start the treatment for their children with cancer due to the high cost involved in the treatment, travel, food and shortage of beds at the hospital which leaves patients sleeping on verandas or in tents.

He says it is appalling to have 90 % of the drugs required for cancer treatment, yet only 30% of the children are treated and out of those, 70% die from cancer.

Dr. Jackson Orem, Senior Oncology Consultant and UCI Executive Director says the cancer prevention efforts, community sensitization and mobilization must be increased in Uganda to fight against cancer among children.

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He says more resources should be placed on treating  children with cancer, whose number increases by 50% annually.

21- year – old Daudi Semukaya, a former cancer patient however says the facilities and treatment care has improved since he was admitted and treated in 2012. 

Semukaya was diagnosed with cancer of the liver but cured and is studying as a medical student at Mulago hospital.

The World Health Organization (WHO) set a target to increase the survival rate of cancer among children up to 60% by the year 2030.