Radiotherapy Machine Breaks in Uganda, Placing Thousands at Risk

Charles Ayitey April 11, 2016
Before its latest breakdown, Mulago Hospital's radiotherapy machine served thousands of cancer patients across Africa's Great Lakes region. (Credit: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times)

The lives of cancer patients in Uganda and several neighboring countries hang in the balance as the country’s only radiotherapy machine has broken down beyond repair. Located at Mulago Hospital in the capital city, Kampala, the second-hand radiotherapy machine was donated in 1995 and has since been repaired several times.

This latest breakdown is feared to have put the lives of thousands of cancer patients in jeopardy, especially when 75% of the overall 44,000 annual new referrals seriously require radiotherapy to keep them strong and active. The cancer unit says it would need $1.8m (£1.3m) to buy a new machine.

“It’s really, really a hard time,” the unit’s spokesperson Christine Namulindwa has revealed to the BBC, “[and] it’s having an impact on our patients, as the treatment is often required.”

Patients are still able to get other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, but if they need radiotherapy, and they can afford it, they will have to travel to neighboring Kenya, the BBC has reported. Thousands of others have been denied potentially life-saving treatment

Radiotherapy is a form of cancer therapy using ionizing radiation  to control or kill malignant cells. Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in Africa, documented to be killing more people each year than AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria combined. The World Health Organisation has thus predicted that by 2020 there are expected to be 15 million new cases of cancer every year globally, 70% of which will emanate from Africa.

Last Edited by:Deidre Gantt Updated: April 11, 2016


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