Five additional hospitals to start offering chemotherapy

Five new hospitals are expected to begin offering chemotherapy to cancer patients. Currently, the service is only available at select hospitals such as the Rwanda Cancer Centre in Butaro, the Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH) and King Faisal Hospital.

Speaking at an international cancer conference held in Kigali from March 28-29, Dr Fredrick Kateera, the Deputy Executive Director of Partners in Health, a not-for-profit organisation supporting the government in cancer care, announced plans to expand oral chemotherapy services to five additional hospitals.

“For patients who need oral chemotherapy and don’t need to be hospitalised, there is no point in driving to Butaro. So, we are looking again to capacitate five hospitals across the country to be able to provide oral chemotherapy and follow up patients closer to their homes,” he said, without divulging the names of the hospitals.

“If we don’t make care patient-centred, we are going to be asking too much from people who are sick and many of them are debilitated,” he added.

He also pointed out that they are working with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) to improve diagnostics in the country by ensuring that treatment areas are closer to patients.

“Previously every patient would come to the centre to have a biopsy taken, to have a tissue processed and that was not going to be very feasible long term as more and more patients come in. So we are working at five centres now to improve diagnostics. Because they will be closer to patients, there will be an increase in access,” he noted.

Dr Theoneste Maniragaba, an oncologist who works as the programme director for cancer diseases at RBC, admits that one of the gaps that need to be bridged in the country’s cancer care programmes is decentralisation of services.

“We need to think about decentralisation of cancer care. If I talk about Rwanda, there is some progress but we need to reach somewhere where any patient that is in the community can get screened from the nearest health centres. This can start with cancers like cervical, breast, and prostate cancers,” he noted.

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Philippa Kibugu, a breast cancer survivor, told The New Times that the extension of oral chemotherapy services to more hospitals would save patients from costs including transport and accommodation.

“Can you imagine travel expenses to be saved by patients, not to mention accommodation and food costs? Availability of medicines in five new hospitals will definitely facilitate easier access to treatment,” she said.

Today, Rwanda offers three treatment options for cancer; chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy.

According to data from RBC, in 2023, more than 5,000 new cases of cancer were identified in Rwanda. 610 of these were cervical cancer cases and 605 were for breast cancer.







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