The Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, The Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga has called for increased access to cancer services in the country. She made the call at the national commemoration of World Cancer Day 2018, under the theme: “We can. I can.”, held at the Parliament of Uganda.
"I am happy that cancer is now getting the visibility it deserves, but accessibility to cancer services stands at just 5%. Therefore, we need to equip all referral health facilities in the country,” she said. Hon Kadaga, who was the chief guest commended the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) for procuring and installing the Cobalt-60 Radiotherapy machine which has improved cancer screening and treatment easier. She pledged the support of parliament and other arms of government in tackling cancer.
The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng underscored the need to spread cancer services across Uganda and highlighted efforts by MoH and UCI to establish cancer screening centres all over the country. “Uganda Cancer Institute is working hard to ensure there are centres for screening cancer all over the country and by the end of 2019, all centres will be functional”, she said. Dr Aceng applauded UCI for the great strides made in cancer service provision despite the existing challenges and pledged her support to address them.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative in Uganda, Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam congratulated UCI and MoH for commissioning the Cobalt- 60 Radiotherapy Machine pointing out that it will foster progress in cancer treatment. He highlighted the importance of early detection in cancer treatment, drawing attention to the Speaker's message on improving accessibility to health services. "When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of survival, less morbidity, and less expensive treatment”, he said.
The seven-kilometer cancer walk in commemoration of the day had various participants including the Speaker of Parliament, officials from WHO, MoH, UCI, Uganda Cancer Society, civil society organizations and the general public.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide with nearly 1 in 6 deaths attributed to cancer. Annually, 8.8 million deaths occur due to cancer with 70% of these occurring in middle and low-income countries. Notably, 30% of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risk factors namely: overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive use of alcohol. Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths.