Lacor hospital launches awareness drive on burkitt ’s lymphoma
By Polycap Kalokwera
Lacor Hospital, together with other health partners have launched an awareness campaign on Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system of children, especially boys between 5 and 10 years.
Burkitt ’s lymphoma is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in which tumors form and grow at an alarming, rapid rate.
The causes of Burkitt lymphoma remain unknown, but some of the signs of the disease are swollen eyes, face, abdomen, testicles and lose teeth.
The campaign is a one year program under the Awareness for Burkitt’s Lymphoma Eradication (ABLE) project.
During the campaign there is awareness creation, screening and referral of patients.
The pilot project kicked-started from Atiak Sub-county, Amuru district and Awach Sub-county, Gulu district and will be rolled throughout the country.
Dr. Francis Okongo, a palliative care specialist at the hospital, advised parents to take their children for early diagnosis and management.
He said Burkitt’s Lymphoma comprises 80% of all cancers at the hospital, adding that since 2010, about 900 children with the disease have been treated there, with a cure rate of about 70%.
There are 26 cases of Burkitt’s Lymphoma at Lacor hospital currently.
Dr. Stella Kyoyagala, a pediatrician at Lacor Hospital, said the challenges affecting early treatment of cancer in northern Uganda is inability by parents to detect the signs of the disease early, and take their children for referrals to Mulago because of the financial implications.
“It costs about 3 million shillings to treat one case of Burkitt’s lymphoma, an amount that can’t be afforded by even 1% of the population,” Dr. Stella said.
Joyce Laker Patra, an Administrator Rainbow Family Home established by SOLETERRE, said although the center provides feeding, accommodation, psychosocial support and transport to all the patients and their care takers at the facility, it is very hard to engage parents to think positively about children suffering from the disease.
“Some parents decide to abandon the sick ones in hospital, for the healthy ones at home,” Laker said.
Florence Arach, a resident of Amuru district recounted how she thought of abandoning her 12 year old son, Daniel Ogenrwot, upon hearing that he had Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
“I had no hope for his survival, and treatment is very expensive,” Arach said.
“The smallest amount of money I had to come with for review and refill of his medication was shs. 400,000 thousand, yet I can hardly feed my children,” she said.
Dr. Odong said the ABLE campaign is aimed at reducing the death rate caused by Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
“Children with Burkitt lymphoma die rapidly, but with appropriate management survival rate improves greatly,” Dr. Odong stated.
He revealed that in the hospital lost, 24 out of the 85 children admitted for Burkitt’s lymphoma in 2017. Dr. Odong however said with palliative care, survival rate of patients have improved by 79.6 per cent.
“Ten children completed their treatment cycles and have recovered,” he said.