Surgeons from Cincinnati University have played a pivotal role in inaugurating the advanced theaters at the Northern Regional Cancer Center in Gulu City. This state-of-the-art facility, equipped by the government, has commenced intricate surgeries on cancer patients within the region.
The medical experts from the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) conducted a test run on two of the three fully-equipped theaters last week. Subsequently, the center officially opened its doors on Monday, initiating a one-week free head and neck surgical camp for cancer patients.
Dr. Chad Zender, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon from Cincinnati University, emphasized that the medical procedures offered at the center, which cost between $50,000 and $100,000 abroad, present a life-saving opportunity for patients in the region who cannot afford such exorbitant expenses.
The Regional Cancer Center, with an investment of Sh30 billion (Euros 7.5 million), began its outpatient department operations in August. It has since witnessed a substantial influx of cancer patients seeking medical attention.
Dr. Jeff Otiti, the Head of the Surgical Division at UCI, highlighted that five patients with gynecology and urology cases underwent operations during the theater’s test run for functionality. This week, in collaboration with expert surgeons from the United States, a free surgical camp for head and neck cancer surgeries has been extended.
While cancer cases are prevalent, head and neck cancers, often linked to risk factors like tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, are particularly common in the region. Early screening is emphasized to facilitate timely detection and treatment, especially for cancers of the thyroid, larynx, mouth, throat, and the feeding passage.
Dr. Ivan Latim, overseeing the Northern Regional Cancer Center, reported that 13 cancer patients had registered for the neck and head surgical camp by Monday. Among them, two had scalp cancer, one had thyroid cancer, and the majority presented with cancer of the salivary gland.
Out of the 126 patients who visited the center since its partial opening, 62 were newly diagnosed, while others had begun their care in Kampala but faced financial constraints.
While the surgical camp is free, the equivalent services in private facilities in Uganda would cost patients between Sh18 million to Sh20 million. Currently, two out of the three state-of-the-art theaters are operational.
Dr. Latim noted that the prevalent cancer cases in the first three months since the center’s opening included cancer of the cervix constituting half of the cases, along with cases of breast and prostate cancer. The facility, in its first phase, is equipped with advanced diagnostic tools, and the government plans to introduce a Radiotherapy bunker in the second phase of construction.
Despite progress, cancer remains a substantial burden in the country’s health sector, with UCI’s 2022 statistics indicating an estimated 33,000 annual cancer diagnoses, with only 7,400 receiving care. Alarmingly, 21,300 people succumb to the disease every year.