Cancer machine resumes operation

The cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine

The cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine which was shut down over the weekend, with officials claiming it was for the purposes of servicing, resumed operations on Monday, according to a June 11 statement issued by the Uganda Cancer Institute.

“Management of Uganda Cancer Institute informs the general public that the first routine service of the cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine is complete and that services have resumed fully,” reads the official statement.

According to Dr Jackson Orem, the institute’s executive director, the service was successfully done over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) by a designated technician from Czech Republic (UJP-Praha), Mr Bedn. Andrej.

Acquired at Shs2.7 billion by a collaboration between the Ugandan government and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations body that regulates use of nuclear and atomic energy machine, the machine was commissioned on January 19, replacing an old one that was installed more than 22 years ago, and crashed in March 2016.

Radiotherapy is one of the three forms of treatment for cancer patients in the country. Chemotherapy and operations are other means that are used.

At UCI, radiotherapy is used in the treatment of cervical cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and other cancers. It is estimated that around 100 cancer patients need radiotherapy on a monthly basis in the country.

The institute gets an estimated 44,000 new referrals from Uganda and other neighbouring countries including Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. 75 per cent of these require radiotherapy.

According to officials, the machine is still under warranty thus the servicing is done for free by the manufacture. Andrej conducted the routine servicing alongside local technicians, according to Dr. Orem.

It will again be serviced in October 2018.

Basic facts about the machine

The machine enables doctors to treat cancer patients using radiation energy. These radiotherapy-means use rays such as X rays, gamma, electron beams etc. to kill or damage cancer cells so as they can’t multiply.

Although radiation damages cancer cells, it also damages normal cells. However, the normal cells are usually able to repair themselves and function normally.

Radiotherapy can be used to treat many cancers some of which are tumours, skin, breast, prostrate, cervix etc. It is believed that above 60% of all cancer patients require radiotherapy alone or in combination with other modalities during their course treatment.

While under treatment, the patient lies on the table and a beam of gamma rays passes through a server of collimators and jaws which shape the beam as it is directed at the patient.

Placement of the beam and radiation dose is precisely calculated to mitigate the destruction of Health cells while destroying the cancerous cells. The treatment head is rotated at different angles to treat the cancer from different sides without over exposing healthy tissue.




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