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UCI Starts Installing Uganda’s First Linac Radiotherapy Machine

The machine, known as the true beam linear accelerator (Linac), is the first of its kind in Africa and has been acquired through a government of Uganda funding amounting to USD 4 million (14.7 billion Shillings). The equipment adds to two already existing Cobalt radiotherapy machines which have been serving up to 150 people each day.
A linear Accelerator displayed by Radiology Oncology systems

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Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has started installing a new radiotherapy machine, after a yearlong stall. The initial installation was scheduled for March 2019.

The machine, known as the true beam Linear Accelerator (Linac), is the first of its kind in Africa and has been acquired through a government of Uganda funding amounting to USD 4 million (14.7 billion Shillings). The equipment adds to two already existing Cobalt radiotherapy machines which have been serving up to 150 people each day.

The Linear Accelerator uses microwave technology to accelerate high energy x-rays or electrons to conform to a tumour's shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. It features several built-in safety measures to ensure that it will deliver the dose as prescribed

UCI Executive Director Dr Jackson Orem says that the machine will be in use within a month after ensuring that all the safety tests have been met. He was giving an update, this morning, on the treatment of cancer using radiation also called radiotherapy.

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Dr Orem says that the addition pushes the Cancer institutes capacity to up to 400 patients per day, yet  offering more precise treatment since doctors will now be able to make use of the equipment’s ability to rotate to any angle targeting exactly the specific cancer being treated. 

While cancer can be treated through other ways for instance chemotherapy and surgery, Orem says radiotherapy is a better option as it targets the affected area and destroys cancer where it is without affecting other organs in the body.

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However, restocking of radiotherapy at the institute comes after a crisis in 2016 which saw a number of people needing the care unnecessarily succumbing to cancer and others seeking care abroad when the only a machine at the time broke down beyond repair.

Then, a number of promises by the government and donors were made. Among them was the promise of the latest equipment and another donation of the cobalt-60 machine received early this year from the government of India.  This revamped care, Orem says will be accessorized by a new deal they are brokering to have Cuban Oncologists partner with them so they can learn from their best practices for treatment improvement.

Last week, the Cuban ambassador Antonio Luis visited the institute to discuss this arrangement and Orem says they are currently agreeing on the terms before the collaboration starts.  Already, medics specializing in radiotherapy have been trained abroad about the use of the latest state of the art equipment.

Some of them Orem says have been trained in South Africa as the country was the first in Africa to use this technology in treatment, although he adds the new machine is of the latest, more advanced technology compared to what the South Africans use as it offers high energy.         

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