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Early detection helps 350 defeat childhood cancer-Mulago Oncologists reveal


Early detection helps 350 defeat childhood cancer-Mulago Oncologists reveal

Left to Right Dr. Anne Akullo, Catherine
Kyomugisha(Cancer Survivor) Brian Walusimbi (Founder Bless a Child Foundation) Dr. Annet Nakirulu.

Hamudi Mugerwa and Harriet Nakabubi, both 7-year-olds, were part of the 17 children who brought smiles to parents, doctors and other patients at Mulago Hospital as they received certificates for completing treatment and curing of cancer.

The Paediatric Haematology and Oncology (PHO) Unit of Mulago Hospital, with partners like Lions Club and Bless a Child Foundations recognized the first group of children out of the 350 who were treated at the Unit and successfully defeated Cancer.

Marking the International Childhood Cancer Day on the February 15, 2024, Dr. Anna Akullo, the Associate Director of Clinical Operations of the Global HOPE, PHO unit, Mulago Hospital noted that the red carpet for cancer survivors’ function was organized to celebrate the bravery of the survivors and also give hope to patients and the general public that childhood cancer is curable if detected early.

Dr. Akullo says Global Hope offers free cancer treatment since its inception in 2019, and that over 1579 children diagnosed with cancer have been cared for and treated.

Pointing at what she cited as impressive survival rates, Dr. Akullo urged parents to pay close attention to their children in order to detect childhood cancers early enough and seek help.

As part of the celebrations to mark the success achieved in care and treatment, Global HOPE has seen and treated over 1,579 children diagnosed with cancer since it started its operations in 2019 at the PHO unit in Mulago. These results are reflected in an 86% one-month survival rate after diagnosis and a 63% overall one-year survival rate after diagnosis. These rates are dramatically up from the baseline, historical survival rates of 10-30%.

“I am really grateful for the partnership we have with Bless-A-Child Foundation, because through it, we have actually seen children start and complete treatment”, she said. “I am hopeful that we can replicate this model in other parts of the country to ensure that all children have access to services, care and treatment,” she added.

Brian Walusimbi, the founder of Bless a Child Foundation said that in addition to availing psych-social support and shelter to children with cancer, the organization uses the International Childhood Cancer Day as a platform to raise awareness and identify challenges associated with cancer treatment.

“The International Childhood Cancer Day serves as a unique platform for uniting citizens, patient advocates, healthcare teams, decision-makers, and the media, all driven by a common objective: to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and together transform cancer into a globally curable disease someday,” said Brian Walusimbi, the Founder of Bless a Child Foundation.

Walusimbi added that the Organization’s mandate is to provide care support services to children up to the age of 18 suffering from cancer and related infections.

“After having realized how difficult the conditions were for children and their caregivers when they arrive in Kampala for treatment, we were compelled to find a way to ease their worries by providing a place where they could stay for free, have a comfortable bed and a warm meal as they went back and forth for their treatment, and we have been doing this for 15 years now”, Walusimbi noted.

Common Childhood Cancers

When asked about the types of cancers among children, Dr. Akullo said that Leukemia is the most common cancer among children in Uganda and globally.

Explaining that Leukemia is the cancer of the blood affecting different blood cells, Dr. Akullo quickly added that there is also a lot of kidney cancers called Wilms-tumor, this type commonly affects one kidney and occasionally it may affect both kidneys.

“Children with Wilms-Tumor are those you have seen moving around with big tummies but also sometimes they pass out urine with blood in it”-Dr.Akullo.

And the other cancer that is common and people are not aware about, is the cancer of the brain/ brain tumors and this is because children present with symptoms of common everyday illnesses.

“children presenting with sleeping too much, headaches and a decline in their academic performance. We have stories of teachers and parents beating up children for bad handwriting and a few months down the road these children are diagnosed with a brain tumor”-Dr. Akullo.

Stressing the urgent need for Childhood Cancer Awareness, Dr. Akullo noted that awareness is a very big deal since childhood cancer symptoms are very unclear, most of the times they present like normal day to day illnesses, for example Leukemia, it will present with fever sometimes swollen glands, lymph nodes, bone pains, so the child is sick they are weak, have fever, temperatures and most of the time when they go to hospital.

They come to do CBC and the health worker may conclude that the child has an infection, and they are treated for infection yet the cell count continues to go up until someone looks at an abnormal cbc and say no, these blood cells are too high, It takes a critical eye to study a blood test and get to know that this is leukemia.

Dr. Annet Nakirulu, a pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist suggest that health workers engage in refresher training on diagnosis of childhood cancer, saying that if the cancer is detected early enough there is hope of better management and cure just like in the case of the 350 survivors recorded at the Global Hope program, Mulago National Referral Hospital



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