Uganda: UCI Records 600 Child Cancer Cases Annually

16 February 2021

The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has said it detects at least 600 cases of cancer among children each year.

Dr Joyce Balagadde Kambugu, who heads the clinical management of childhood cancer at the Institute, however, said 75 per cent of children with cancer in the country are either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

"A total of 750 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, 600 of those cases are detected at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) and around 150 cases are detected at Mbarara Hospital [cancer centre] each year," Dr Balagadde said.

She added: "This is about 25 per cent of cases who present at specialised cancer treatment centres. According to the GLOBOCAN report of 2018, it is estimated that every year in Uganda, there are around 3,000 cases of cancer among children under the age of 18."

GLOBOCAN is a project of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) providing global cancer statistics and estimates of incidence and mortality.

Dr Balagadde was speaking yesterday at the commemoration of International Childhood Cancer Day held at the UCI under the theme 'Better Survival Is Achievable through our Hands.'

According to Dr Noleb Mugisha, the head of cancer prevention at the UCI, low diagnosis of childhood cancer is caused by what he described as uniqueness of the disease and limited awareness about it.

"Cancers in children are unique. They are not lifestyle diseases like it is in adults. We tell adults to stop smoking or drinking to reduce the risk of cancer, but in children, the cancer is caused by mutation of genetic materials," Dr Mugisha said.

Dr Mugisha, however, said the swelling in body parts, persistent fever, difficulties to start walking, weight loss, bleeding easily or losing the teeth are some of the common symptoms among children with cancer.

Rate of cure

Dr Mugisha, however, said childhood cancer is curable.

According to Dr Jackson Orem, the UCI executive director, the survival of common childhood cancers have increased from 45 per cent to 75 per cent in the last 10 years.

"At the population level, cancer awareness has increased from near zero to 7 per cent in 10 years, there is increase access to care from 4 per cent to 10 per cent, meanwhile, drug availability has gone up from 30 per cent to 90 per cent," he said.

Dr Balagadde attributed the good survival rate to improvement in equipment for treating the children and specialists that were recruited.

She said they are engaging the Ministry of Education to establish a learning centre at the cancer centre to enable children who are undergoing treatment continue with studies.

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