The February 2024 National Palliative Care Update Meeting

By Joyce Zalwango

Since 1999, we have been hosting quarterly national palliative care meetings in Uganda. The meetings bring together PCAU members, Ministry of Health Officials, Members of Parliament, University Faculty staff, and interested members of the public every three months. The gatherings are important for advocacy, sharing experiences, continuous medical education, and networking. The topics of discussion at these meetings are agreed upon unanimously by participants as per the popular needs at the time.

On 23rd February 2024, we held PCAU’s 1st update meeting for this year. The hybrid meeting was attended by 50 people physically at PCAU and over 150 PCAU members mostly health workers who joined online in groups at 10 locations across the country. Other people joined at their workplaces and homes. From COVID-19, we have realized the importance of ensuring an online option for people to attend all our important gatherings that attract people from across the country and beyond.

At the February meeting, the topic was: The Update on developing the National Cancer Control Plan for Uganda. Our distinguished presenters were Dr. Noleb Mugisha, a PhD Fellow of Community Oncology from the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), and Dennis Olodi the Executive Director of the Uganda Cancer Society (UCS). The meeting was chaired by Prossy Nakyanja, Acting Chief Executive Director of Hospice Africa Uganda. The Uganda Cancer Institute is leading the development of the National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP). The process has been extremely consultative and involving for all stakeholders on the cancer front in Uganda. We at the PCAU Secretariat and other PCAU members have been part of this process. The proposed plan aims at strengthening capacity in cancer prevention, early detection, curative, palliative care, and survivorship interventions in the national health and development agenda for Uganda.

According to the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) report of 2024, Uganda registered 35,968 new cancer cases in 2022.  The number of prevalent cases (5 years) was 77,028 while the number of deaths was 24 629. In Uganda, the most common types of cancer are the cancer of the cervix, cancer of the breast, cancer of the prostate, kaposis sarcoma, cancer of the ovary, cancer of the colon, cancer of the liver, leukemia, burkitts lymphoma (commonly found in children). The Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) in their 2024 publication has highlighted the prevalence of the most common cancers in Uganda as shown below:

Source: Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) 2024 publication

The NCCP caters to special interest populations such as Albinism, People Living with HIV/AIDS, Refugees, and children. Some of the target outcomes of the plan are to reduce cancer risk, promote earlier cancer detection and diagnosis, and timely and better treatment improve Palliative care, and increase the quality of life of patients and survivors.

At the update meeting, participants appreciated the progress of developing the NCCP and gave more feedback. Many participants also asked for waivers of current cancer treatment costs at the UCI.

On his part, Dennis Olodi the Executive Director of the Uganda Cancer Society discussed the findings of the study on cancer patients’ involvement in service delivery.  The study respondents were at participants who were receiving treatment at UCI.  

In the study, the patients shared their experiences and challenges like not being properly explained to the different benefits or disadvantages of changes in medication made, lack of support for transport, loss of livelihood due to sickness, and lack of accommodation during treatment.  The other challenges were the high cost of treatment, stigma, and isolation in the community.

All the presenters highlighted the need for health promotion, advocacy, partnerships, and collaboration to overcome the challenges associated with the increasing burden of cancer. The next major gathering of PCAU will be the Annual General Meeting which will be held on May 31aat 2024.


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