New Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center to Improve Cancer Treatment in Uganda

BY D SEBUNYA: Cancer treatment and care in Uganda are set to improve as the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) intends to start using the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) technology.

This type of cancer care, which most patients seek abroad, is an imaging scan that helps doctors identify what’s happening inside the body, navigating the working and behaviors of organs and tissues. This helps doctors have a more exact position of the cancerous cells, making treatment more effective and easy, as it is aimed with specificity rather than guessing.

This cancer treatment technique uses radioactivity equipment, and construction of bunkers for this use started by shifting the 500,000-liter water tank to another location where its capacity will be enhanced to 1.5 million liters to meet the hospital’s current demands. The project is expected to be completed within four years, and once completed, Uganda will join a handful of African countries that use the technology in this particular medical field.

While commissioning the construction exercise, Dr. Jackson Orem, the UCI executive director, said that with this bold step, Uganda is moving towards curing cancer rather than merely treating it. “This is catalytic, and this means it will create ripple effects, which are effective for the future management of cancer patients. We are moving in a direction where we don’t just treat cancer but we cure it,” he stated.

According to Orem, PET is one of the cancer treatment plans that Ugandan patients seek overseas, and now that it is set to start in the country, a lot of money will be saved. “People who are going outside for treatment are actually going for this, and if calculated, they spend somewhere between 80 to 100 million dollars every year. If that money is channeled to this project, it would be completed very fast.”

The PET Center is to cost USD 120 million, and Orem says all this money is from the government of Uganda. It has been in concept since 2022 and is expected to be completed in four years.

Dr. Emmanuel Osinde says that this technology is not only used in scanning for the disease but also in its treatment through using a targeted beam to the affected area. This same technology can be used to diagnose certain heart and brain diseases, to which 10 percent of the PET work will be dedicated.

Clare Ruhweza, an architect at South Gate Consulting, the company behind the civil works of equipment bunkers, says the center will be a seven-storied building with an ecological park, an imaging center, a molecular and therapy unit, and a tank house. It will also house an animal and human disease research center.

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