A severe lack of cancer care in Burundi

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Published: 5 Jun 2019
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Dr Canesius Uwizeyimana - Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist, Bujumbura, Burundi

Dr Canesius Uwizeyimana speaks to ecancer at the Global Health Catalyst Summit 2019 at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts about some of the problems with cancer care in Burundi.

He explains some of the current options for cancer patients in Burundi, but they are few and far between, and if you don't have the money, there are currently no options.

Dr Uwizeyimana outlines a hopeful new project to establish a diagnostics centre, and also improve awareness of cancer issues around the country.
 

In Burundi we are facing a big challenge – we don’t have a registry of cancer, there are no cancer registries. The only data that are available are from different sources, actual external sources, and they are not also accurate. That also includes the mortality rate, it’s not accurate because of the lack of cancer registry.

What is currently available for cancer patients in Burundi?

For the moment the government of Burundi has established a department under the Ministry of Health which is in charge to deal with the cancer management. But the problem is the same – the persons who are qualified are not represented there; we don’t have equipment for diagnosis, we don’t have also some drugs, some medicines for chemotherapy. For now some people with some problem of cancer who are diagnosed through mammography and other local means are treated overseas.

What about people who cannot afford these options?

For those who don’t afford that or who are diagnosed at a late stage for now we don’t do anything. But there is a project which is to establish a cancer therapy unit in Burundi including services, diagnostics and treatment. The project is late because it was supposed to start in 2018 but some problems of management made it late and now we are waiting to appoint a qualified team so to speed it up.

Can you provide some more details about the project?

The project is to establish a diagnosis centre. This will include CTs, mammography and other [?? 2:28] or laboratory for anatomic pathology diagnosis. And also it includes the procurement of equipment like LINAC, linear accelerators, for the treatment of the patients in Burundi and probably in the East African region.

So how many cancer experts do you have in Burundi?

For the human resource we have some oncologists, they are just oncologists but there is no radiation oncology. For medical physicists we have one medical physicist in the radiation oncology who is qualified. For others like nurses in oncology we don’t have yet so we are now establishing the need for those personnel.

Are people aware of cancer in Burundi?

The truth, in Burundi there is a big lack of awareness and that’s more on the project – we want also to send agents to the population so they can be aware of the cancer that is not already known by the big part of the population.

What is your message?

My message, I want that we could have access like other countries for our patients because many are treated overseas and those who are treated overseas are using a lot of money and it does cost a lot for a family, it’s a big problem. And others are dying because of lack of resources.