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Five things you need to know about the newly launched Rwanda Cancer Centre

Author UZABAKIRIHO Jean Gabriel Views

Rwanda Cancer Centre which was launched on Tuesday, January 5, was a landmark achievement in the fight against the disease, mostly because it is the country’s first-ever radiotherapy-offering facility.

Located at Rwanda Military Hospital, the centre has the capacity to provide radiotherapy treatment to cancer patients at national and regional level, using the latest technology.

1. Uses highly sophisticated VMAT technology

The centre is a highly technological facility employing world class equipment.

Its main components are two linear accelerators (equipment that produce radiations used for treating cancer), and a CT scan specialized for scanning and analyzing tumours in order for medics to know the level of radiation needed for specific parts of the tumour.

The accelerators use Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT), a technology that accurately administers radiation to a tumour while minimising the dose to the organs surrounding it, to avoid complications that can arise when radiation reaches organs that don’t need it.

This is opposed to the outdated forms of radiotherapy like 2D which involved more risks of radiation reaching surrounding parts of the tumour which would jeopardize the patient’s health with complications in the future.

VMAT is particularly useful for delivering radiation therapy to tumours near sensitive body organs, and can be an effective treatment for many types of cancer.

The radiotherapy equipment in the centre was purchased from Elekta, a Swedish company that provides radiation therapy, radiosurgery, related equipment and clinical management for the treatment of cancer and brain disorders.

The facility also has computers where experts analyse pictures of tumours, cameras for monitoring patients while they are having their therapy inside the radiation rooms, among other things.

2. Most advanced cancer centre in East Africa

According to Rwanda Biomedical Centre, the RCC is the most advanced of its kind in East Africa. This is perhaps mainly for the reason of the technology it uses.

The centre was built on a turnkey basis by UNTEC, a French company, funded by the government of Rwanda, the Global Fund and U.S CDC.

Besides being able to administer good treatment to patients, the facility’s technology also makes provision for medics not to be affected by the radiations.

Here, the medics don’t have to be inside the radiation room while the patients are getting therapy since the room is equipped with cameras that enable them (the medics) to monitor the patients from outside.

Continuous exposure to radiations can be harmful to people’s health and doctors who work in such environments need protection.

3. Able to treat 150 to 200 patients a day, Mutuelle de Sante accepted

Each of the two linear accelerators can accomodate up to 80 patients every day, meaning with the two machines at the centre can receive up to 160 patients a day at full capacity.

The centre started offering services in March 2019 and to date, 317 patients have been treated. According to RBC, the centre is currently treating about 50 patients per day on average.

More than 57 % of the treated patients were covered by “Mutuelle de Santé” while others were either privately funded or foreigners.

It only offers outpatient services for radiation at the moment but further diagnostic and inpatient services will be added gradually.

4. A 20-bed chemotherapy unit

The RCC also has a 20- bed capacity Chemotherapy Unit. This unit aims to house some patients for chemotherapy; however, it seeks to expand in the future to create more space for chemo as well as introducing surgery.

5. Only 10% of people who needed treatment accessed it

Through different referral boards with the support of different funding entities including the Ministry of Health, FARG, Private Insurances, among others, only less than 10% of the population in need was able to access treatment before the new facility.

This is mainly because of the cost that is associated with this kind of treatment.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimates for 2018 indicate that around 10,704 new cancer cases (4,520 cases among men and 6184 cases in women) were registered per annum and between 50% to 60% of all cancer patients require radiotherapy in the course of their treatment.

In Rwanda, cancer incidence is estimated to be 10,704 with an annual mortality of 7,662. The most common cancers are cervical and prostate cancer in women and men respectively.

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