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Ugandan Voted to Lead International Cancer Organization

She told URN in an interview that her focus at the global body will be highlighting key issues that are unique to Africa which are deterring many children from surviving from cancer. While in many western countries, survival from children cancer is to the highs of 80%, the World Health Organization has set an overall objective to improve survival from all cancers affecting children to 60% by 2030 but Balagadde says in some parts of Africa, survival goes to as low as 10%.
Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu is also Uganda's first pediatric oncologist

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Uganda's Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu has been voted president of the International Children Cancers Organization SIOP short for International Society of Pediatric Oncology.  

After beating two other opponents from Egypt to the position, she will be the first person from East Africa to lead the 51-year old organization.

Dr. Balagadde who heads the pediatric cancer department at Uganda cancer Institute is expected to take over office in October.

She told Uganda Radio Network - URN in an interview that her focus at the global body will be highlighting key issues that are unique to Africa which are deterring many children from surviving from cancer.

While in many western countries, survival from children cancer is to the highs of 80%, the World Health Organization has set an overall objective to improve survival from all cancers affecting children to 60% by 2030, but Dr. Balagadde says in some parts of Africa, survival goes to as low as 10%.

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She said the challenge with children’s cancer in Africa is that they have treat their tumors together with a host of other complications like malnutrition and pediatric HIV.  For her, bringing this to the attention of other over 1600 fellow pediatric oncologists who are members of the society will be vital in making treatment and research decisions that are inclusive.

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Dr. Balagadde who is also Uganda’s first to specialize in pediatric Oncology says one of the reasons as to why she was chosen for the position is her experience in working in an under resourced setting.

When she joined the UCI in 2009, the institute though it had been in existence since 1967, there had never been a dedicated children’s cancer ward and that children would be mixed together with adults, a situation that only got to change in 2012 when her department was granted a ward.

Also, in 2012, Dr. Balagadde was confirmed as pediatric oncologist after under taking super specialization course in South Africa.  She would then start working as the country’s only children’s cancer specialist until recently when more doctors trained. 

Even as these strides have been made, Dr. Balagadde says a lot of research into care for children is still needed as the group remains marginalized with focus being put on adult cancer sufferers that constitute 90% of all cases seen from the East African Region.

She says for the coming years with the first one being dedicated to receiving mentor ship from her predecessor Dr. Laila Hessissen from Morocco will to at least see survival of children raising to 50% something she plans to start with gathering enough information on current treatment plans and accessibility to care.

For their treatment plans, she said doctors in many African settings, use anecdotal information as only a few comprehensive studies have been done in the area of childhood cancer treatment.

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