Friday, November 05, 2010

The difficulties of cancer treatment in Uganda

If you are poor and live in the under-developed world, life is more difficult in almost every way. If you are sick or need health care the added difficulty could mean death.

For people with cancer, there are very few villages with treatment services. Travel to city centers for cancer treatment is impossible for most people.

In Uganda, most health services are payed and provided by donations. Once the money runs out, there is nothing to replace it for treatment. A story from the Inter Press Service today tells the story of a hospital's lone radiotherapy machine sitting unused and broken for months.

From the IPS, writer Rosebell Kagumire spells out some of the difficulties cancer patients have in Uganda.

Cervical cancer, caused primarily by the human papillomavirus (HPV), is the second most common cancer among women worldwide. In Uganda it ranks as the most frequently occurring cancer among women. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) September 2010 report titled, "Human Papillomavirus and Related Cancers in Uganda", every year 3,577 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2,464 die from the disease.

Women like Adongo, in remote regions are at high risk.

The number could also be high due to the low level of cancer screening and limited data on the HPV burden in the general population of Uganda. Cancer screening services are only available at regional referral hospitals and many women cannot afford the transport costs to these centres.

Women, particularly from war affected areas, are also at high risk because of massive sexual violence, often gang rapes, they were subjected to.

According to Dr Tom Otim, gynecologist at Mbale Hospital in eastern Uganda, early marriages among rural women also places them at higher risk.

"The other major hindrance to prevention and treatment of cervical cancer is lack of information," said Otim.

"If the women came when the conditions that lead to cancer can be detected it would greatly help. But few women have information about the existence of this cancer."

Most Ugandan women report to health centres with advanced stages of cervical cancer, which include irregular vaginal bleeding and in some cases post menopausal bleeding.

"The outcry of many women is, why do you refer us to Mulago for radiotherapy when we can’t afford it?" Otim said. "It is demoralizing to diagnose a woman and you cannot improve her life. But what is even more painful is when you tell them the service is available but they cannot afford it because they are poor."

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