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UGANDA: New facility to concentrate on cancer

KAMPALA, 6 October 2011 (IRIN) - Uganda has one of the highest rates of infection-related cancers in the world. Exploring the links between infections and cancer will be one of the main roles of a new research and treatment centre in Kampala, according to officials at a ground-breaking ceremony on 4 October.

The facility, a collaboration between the US-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre and the Uganda Cancer Institute, will focus on improving treatment of such cancers across East Africa as well as on providing specialist training to medical personnel.

The survival rate for most common cancers in Uganda is 10 percent. The hope is that the new centre will boost this to 90 percent – saving some 6,000 lives a year.

Particularly prevalent in Uganda are Kaposi’s sarcoma in adults and Burkitt’s lymphoma in children. Lack of access to early diagnosis and treatment makes these conditions – treatable for US$720 and $600 respectively - fatal in most cases.

Upon completion in 2013, the centre will have the capacity to treat 20,000 patients annually.

Researchers have found that six of the most common cancers in Uganda are associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with a 30 percent annual increase in the past 15 years, while non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which includes Burkitt’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, is the fourth most common cancer in the country. 

Jackson Orem, director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, said limited resources for many patients had led to the country having the highest cancer rates worldwide; "as a result, Uganda's cancer survival rate is just 10 percent".

Corey Casper, co-director of the Uganda Cancer Institute and the Hutchinson Centre Cancer Alliance, said developing countries should look beyond their borders and collaborate with developed nations in the fight against cancer.

He said most cancer patients in developing countries were diagnosed late because of poverty and often could not afford treatment.

Orem said by 2008, there was only one oncologist handling 10,000 cancer patients annually in Uganda. Each year, 600 new cases of Burkitt’s lymphoma are recorded across the country. The average age of a child with the disease is five years old, with the five-year survival rate being less than 40 percent, according to the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Doctors from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre noted that breast cancer was a growing threat in sub-Saharan Africa while prostate cancer was the fastest-growing malignancy in Uganda.

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Theme (s): Children, Health & Nutrition,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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