Panic as Uganda’s sole cancer machine breaks down

Saturday April 9 2016

Chief Radiologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Stanley Rutajunara explaining how the linear accelerator machine is used in cancer treatment on January 3, 2012. Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine is broken beyond repair. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEIDIA GROUP

Chief Radiologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Stanley Rutajunara explaining how the linear accelerator machine is used in cancer treatment on January 3, 2012. Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine is broken beyond repair. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEIDIA GROUP 

By BBC
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KAMPALA, Friday

Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine used for treating cancer is broken beyond repair, the health ministry has said.

This leaves thousands of citizens unable to get potentially life-saving treatment.
The cancer unit at the country’s main hospital, Mulago, is now looking for $1.8 million to buy a new machine.

The unit gets 44,000 new referrals annually from Uganda and from neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Around 75 per cent of these may require radiotherapy, the unit’s spokesperson Christine Namulindwa said.

“It is really a hard time and it is having an impact on our patients,” she added.

BUY NEW MACHINE

Radiotherapy uses radiation to target and kill cancerous cells in a specific part of the body. Healthy cells can recover from this damage, while cancerous ones do not.

The machine at Mulago Hospital was second hand when it was donated in 1995 and has been repaired many times in the past.

“Our efforts to fix it this time have failed,” Ms Namulindwa said.

The cancer unit is talking to the ministry to find a way to buy a new machine, but it is not clear when that would happen.

In the meantime, patients are still able to get other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, but if they need radiotherapy, and they can afford it, they have to travel to Kenya.