Photograph — newtimes.co.rw

In celebration of World Cancer Day on Tuesday, February 4, 2020, President Paul Kagame officially launched Rwanda’s Cancer Centre at its military hospital in Kanombe. 

The centre, which has been operational since March 2019, boasts of cutting edge technology used in administering specialized treatment to cancer patients in the form of VMAT (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy). This technology accurately administers radiation to a tumour while minimizing the dose to the organs surrounding it.

Similarly, the centre houses the country’s only radiotherapy facility which complements the other two treatment options that are available in Rwanda (chemotherapy and surgery). It is already making plans to include the latter two into its facility as this will yield greater results.

Speaking at the relaunch, Kagame stated that the newly constructed centre will save the lives of hundreds of Rwandans as they will now be able to get the care they need at home with their families close by. Also, the centre will help the government appropriate resources it uses to send cancer patients abroad into other aspects of the economy. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were over 10,000 new cancer cases in Rwanda as of 2018 and about 7,000 deaths recorded. The Rwanda Cancer Centre since its operations last year has been able to treat 317 patients and now has the ability to handle up to 150 to 200 patients per day. Kagame, however, promised that in time the centre will grow to encompass the full range of diagnostic and treatment services for both inpatient and outpatient needs. 

Rwanda’s health sector has improved significantly since the mid-2000s with the advancement of its universal health coverage (UHC), which has a community-based health insurance program (or CBHI) that covers more than three-quarters of the population. About 85 percent of the population participates in mutual insurance programs for their health coverage. This population includes the rich, poor, young, old, urban as well as rural dwellers.  

Despite the advancement in Rwanda’s UHC system, it does not entirely cover the bills of any cancer patient seeking treatment in its state of the art cancer centre. The Rwandan government may want to consider making provisions to lower the bill for cancer treatment, and also ensure that it is affordable even to the least person in the country. 

Dr Felix Sinzabakira, a radiation oncologist at the Rwanda Cancer Centre likewise revealed that the new facility will not be of service to Rwandans alone, but also to everyone in the East African region.

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