A big percentage of people who end up presenting with cancer of the stomach and digestive system complications have been wrongly treated for ulcers, according to experts.
They revealed this while launching a medical camp scheduled to take place at Mulago Specialised National Referral hospital next week to create awareness about gastrointestinal illnesses.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Josephant Jombwe, the head of the Gastrointestinal Unit at Mulago Specialised National Referral hospital, said that a lot of people with cancers show up late having treated ulcers unsuccessfully.
Increasingly, he said the patients turning up with very aggressive cancers are of young age.
“Our people should learn to go for check up whenever they feel they have complications to establish the cause of the problem. But they should go to medical doctors,” he said.
Dr. Vivian Akello, the president of the Society of Uganda Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, revealed that they have previously conducted a survey that indicate that up to 50% of the general population in some parts of Uganda have symptoms suggestive of peptic ulcers.
Gastrointestinal experts deal with diseases of the digestive system or the alimentary canal consisting of the food pipe, stomach, small and large intestines together with accessory organs like the liver and pancreas.
“While we’ve have had challenges previously of trained personnel to deal with such issues, recently the government trained super specialists in the area who will, in turn, be training others throughout the country,” Jombwe said. “Mulago alone has 15 such specialists but they are hardly utilized as patients don’t show up.”
The experts say out of Uganda’s population of about 45 million, they diagnose and treat at least 40,000 new cases of cancer each year and record at least 20,000 cancer-related deaths every year. Of the top 10 cancers in Uganda, four of them occur in the gastrointestinal or digestive system that is the liver, oesophagus, stomach and large intestines.
“Self-medication and low healthcare-seeking behavior are the leading cause of health problems that can’t be reversed or lead to huge expenditure on treatment,” Jombwe said. “More disturbing, some of these diseases are related to preventable or treatable risk factors like hepatitis infection, tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol intake, poor diet and other modifiable lifestyle-related factors.”