Uganda’s radiotherapy machine for cancer treatment breaks

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Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine used for treating cancer is broken beyond repair, the country’s main cancer unit says.

This leaves thousands unable to get potentially life-saving treatment.

The cancer unit at Mulago Hospital in the capital, Kampala, is now looking for $1.8m (£1.3m) to buy a new machine.

It gets 44,000 new referrals a year from Uganda, as well as from neighbouring countries including Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Around 75% of these may require radiotherapy, the unit’s spokesperson Christine Namulindwa told the BBC on the phone from Kampala.

‘Hard for the patients’

“It’s really, really a hard time,” she added, “[and]it’s having an impact on our patients, as the treatment is often required.”

Radiotherapy uses radiation to target and kill cancerous cells in a specific part of the body, and can be used for many types of cancer.

Healthy cells can recover from this damage, while cancer cells cannot.

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

But efforts to fix it this time have failed, Ms Namulindwa said.

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

 

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