Cameroon’s lone public radiotherapy centre for the treatment of cancer patients has been out of use since the 22nd of February 2021 on instructions of the National Radiation Protection Agency-an institution in charge of regulating the use of atomic energy.
The radiotherapy centre at Douala General Hospital in the Littoral region has since 1989 when it was put in place been treating cancer patients in Cameroon and many others from countries in central African sub region. Five machines purchased when the centre was launched have worn out over time with no replacement.
In an exclusive interview with Mimi Mefo Info Tuesday 9th March 2021,Dr. Esomba Biwole Martin;head of cancer unit at Douala General Hospital states “Since February 22nd 2021 we no longer take new cancer patients. I insist that we don’t take new cancer patients but we still administer treatment on twenty six patients that registered for treatment before the decision of the National Radiation Protection Agency unit to shutdown.”
According to the radiation oncologist, old machines still working at the radiotherapy unit for thirty two years function slowly and can only treat one third of the number it can handle when they are new.
“We have more than one hundred and fifty patients on the waiting list that cannot be treated now until the unit is well equipped with new machines.It is rather unfortunate that the number of those on the waiting list continue to increase on daily basis”. To show concern to those on the waiting list,Douala General Hospital says patients can still go there for consultation.
“…let all patients come for consultation.Note that cancer is not only treated by radiotherapy.From consultation,we can advice some patients depending on their situation to receive chemotherapy or undergo surgery” Dr. Esomba added.
Elizabeth Nlend; a sixty eight year old woman suffering from cancer for years and one of those on the waiting list laments the exorbitant cost for the treatment of cancer in Cameroon.
“I spend at least one million francs cfa each month for treatment.Others with more complicated cases spend more than two million. We want the state of Cameroon to subsidies the cost of treatment just its done for kidney patients and those suffering from HIV/AIDS”
Dr. Esomba turning down a question to comment on the cost of treatment at the lone public radiotherapy centre in Cameroon insists that Douala General Hospital is in collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency-IAEA in a process of purchasing all the machines to replace old ones. A project upon completion will cost a little over one billion francs cfa.
As more than 150 cancer patients in Cameroon battle for life while waiting for when machines will be purchased to start treatment,Cameroonians are pointing accusing fingers on the ministry of public health for not doing enough to sensitize Cameroonians on how to prevent cancer.
A source at the ministry of public health has told Mimi Mefo Info that there exists an elaborate national sensitization plan against cancer that has not been fully implemented.
There are two public radiotherapy centres in Central Africa sub region;in Cameroon and Gabon.Most patients prefer to seek treatment in Cameroon for a relative lesser cost as compared to that in Gabon.