Kampala — The Ministry of Health has acquired a hi-tech cancer diagnostic machine that can easily and accurately detect blood cancers which have been hard to diagnose with the traditional microscopes.
More common in children, blood cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced and interrupt the normal blood cell development process. The three main types of cancers include leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said having the flow cytometry machine stationed at the Uganda National Health Laboratories (UNHL) in Butabika will ensure early diagnosis and prompt treatment.
"The turnaround time is one day and includes the results being brought here [UNHL], being analysed and sent online through another results referral network system. So they are able to print and send [the results] to different heads of laboratories in different hospitals and take the decision in real time," Dr Aceng said.
She was speaking at the launch of the Cancer Lab and Hepatitis B viral load laboratories at UNHLS at Butabika in Kampala yesterday.
The minister also urged health workers to send all suspected blood samples through the transport network so that they are analysed and save patients from the previous cumbersome process that delayed the treatment process.
"The method has been that if a health worker suspects there is something wrong with the blood, a patient is referred mainly to UCI (Uganda Cancer Institute) or sees specialists in Mulago or private facilities that also sometimes refer the samples abroad for further analysis... and by the time you get the results, it is quite late to treat the patient," Dr Aceng said.
Dr Jackson Orem, the executive director of UCI, said the new machine can ably detect the lineage of the abnormal cells so the health worker can now tell the type of blood cancers unlike the microscopes which hardly tell the difference between a normal and abnormal cell.
"Some samples would be taken abroad at a cost of $3,000 (about Shs11m) for a test," Dr Orem said, adding that the institute receives a range of 500 to 700 new cases of children suffering from blood cancers.
He also said the institute has not been very accurate in establishing the incidence of blood cancers due to lack of proper diagnosis.
Dr Orem said the new machine offers better options.
"but with this (new machine), there is hope for improvement." according to Dr Orem.
In the past, he said although blood cancer has been ranging from 3rd-4th in the order of incidence in the country they may have to redefine its rankings