Did you know?
Burkitt's Lymphoma (BL) is a highly aggressive childhood cancer that affects hundreds of children in Tanzania each year. BL can cause extremely painful and disfiguring swelling of the jaw, eyes, face and abdomen. BL attacks quickly and can be fatal within weeks if not treated promptly and appropriately.
Studies have found that BL is most common in areas with a high concentration of malaria, leading experts to believe that controlling and reducing the spread of malaria may also decrease the occurrence of BL.
Fortunately BL is treatable with chemotherapy, and the success rates are very high if the appropriate treatment regimen is followed.
Ten-year-old Mwanawetu Saidi had a toothache and stomach cramps when her worried parents took her to a local clinic in the Tanzanian village of Tundu. Untrained clinic staff did not immediately recognize the symptoms of BL. A month after the onset of her pain, large tumors had grown in her mouth, jaw and cheek. "We had never seen such a condition in our village and so we were scared and worried that we would lose her," said Mwanawetu's mother. Finally, she was referred to Ocean Roads Cancer Institute. After the 12-week cycle of chemotherapy, her tumor had disappeared.
In partnership with the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) and with support from private donors, IMA has been working to combat Burkitt’s Lymphoma and complement the National Cancer Treatment Program in Tanzania since 2001. Growing from a partnership of 16 health care facilities to nearly 40 health care facilities (public and faith-based) today, IMA provides access to chemotherapeutic drugs and diagnosis and case management training for various cadres of health care personnel.
IMA and our national partner ORCI work closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) to build the capacity of health care facilities through the training of health care providers (clinicians, nurses, laboratory, and pharmacy staff) on diagnosing and providing case management of Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Large on-site trainings bring together health care workers and students to gain an understanding and strengthen technical knowledge of Burkitt’s Lymphoma while smaller, centralized trainings target specific cadres to build skill capacities and share experiences to enhance learning and abilities. IMA trains the entire range of staff, including students, in diagnosis and case management.
This program also provides the much needed supply of chemotherapy drugs for the 12-week full treatment cycle to facilitate treatment at specific health care facilities. Cyclophosphamide, Vincristine and Methotrexate are not on the Tanzania Essential Drug List and are therefore difficult and expensive for health care facilities to purchase without assistance. This donation allows the children to receive the drugs free of charge.
IMA’s close work with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, led by Ocean Roads Cancer Institute, has significantly helped in the fight against Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
By Dr. Bill Clemmer, IMA Country Director for South Sudan This post was originally published on Ann and Bill...
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