Tanzanian women will now be able to access advanced cervical cancer treatment, through installation of High Dose Therapy machine in Mwanza and Dar-es-salaam cities.
The Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have imported into the country the high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy machine.
The machine has been installed at the Ocean Road Cancer Institution (ORCI) in Dar-es-salaam City as well as at the Bugando Referral Medical Center of Mwanza.
High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy involves a miniaturized encapsulated radioactive source being placed directly into or near the volume to be treated, allowing a high radiation dose to be delivered locally onto a tumor.
The technology boasts a sharp dose fall-off outside the tumor.
Use of this type of treatment is generally limited to small, well-localized tumors, zeroing on affected areas and minimizing radiation effects on other tissues.
Records indicate that in Tanzania cancer is the fifth leading cause of death among men and the second among women.
Most common cancers in Tanzania include cervical carcinoma, breast cancer, prostate carcinoma and other gynecological cancers.
These are said to respond well to high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy.
TAEC’s Director General Prof Lazaro Busagala, reveals that since the installation of the modern machines in October last year, the IAEA through TAEC has facilitated a series of training on the technology.
The two institutions have also hatched the development of a treatment planning system to ensure its safe and effective use.
The Ocean Road Cancer Institute together with the Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) in Mwanza, are so far the country’s two operational public cancer care facilities.
“Tanzania is experiencing a rising cancer incidence in the past five years, but since the launch of a series of IAEA projects in Tanzania, the cancer care facilities in Dar Es Salaam and in Bugando have seen a sharp rise in their capacities and in the number of cases managed each year,” Prof Busagala says.
In Tanzania, cervical cancer remains a serious disease that has been affecting more than 10,000 women every year according to the Global Cancer Observatory.
“Brachytherapy is an essential component in the treatment of this type of tumor, and the IAEA is committed to providing technical support to the country in enhancing the brachytherapy program.”
IAEA also continues collaborating with Tanzania authorities and health professionals for further improvement and expansion of the radiotherapy service in other parts of the country.
Until recently, many cancer patients in Tanzania were traditionally referred to private clinics abroad.
At least 80 cancer patients from Tanzania used to be treated in overseas medical facilities annually.
Flying them out would cost the country over USD 2 Million.
Both the BMC and ORCI health facilities are now able to treat many cervix cancer patients per day using brachytherapy.
With further training provided by the IAEA the TAEC has introduced three-dimension (3D) radiotherapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy and other advanced modalities.
During the last year, more than 340 cervical cancer patients were recorded to have received brachytherapy services at BMC and ORCI.
“Tanzania has recently requested to join the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, which will reinforce enhanced cancer management in the country,” says the official.