Picture courtesy of Lusaka Times
A medical expert has outlined the importance and efficacy of nuclear energy in treating non-communicable diseases.
Dr Mulindi Mwanahamuntu who University Teaching Hospital Deputy Director Women and Newly born Hospita said the construction of Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology(CNST) will ensure that Non Communicable diseases like cancer are effectively treated.
Dr Mwanahabantu said CNST is important in the sense that it will add technology in curing Non Communicable diseases.
Asked whether nuclear technology will completely lessen the burden of cancer, the Medical Expert responded in the negative but was quick to point out that it will effectively cure the disease.
He said the nuclear medicine center uses advanced technologies for diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart diseases and other illnesses. The CNST produces isotopes and radio pharmaceuticals which are used in almost every field of medicine.
“No, it doesn’t mean that with nuclear science, we will have less burden, it simply means that we will have the technology to deal with the burden because nuclear science does not stop something that has already happened, it just helps to treat it better and more effectively. The burden might remain but dying from that burden might reduce,” Dr Mwanamuntu said.
The health status of the Zambian people has been improving over the past 18 years. Since the commencement of major health sector reforms in 1991, Zambia’s efforts have been directed towards improving the standards of living, particularly concerning health of the population throughout the country. This is being done through a combination of strategies and approaches, which include health specific strategies and those intended to influence the performance of other determinants of health, including education, poverty reduction, and access to good sanitation and safe water.
Support services are probably remaining one of the weak chain of the Zambian health sector. Efforts have been consented these last years on restructuring and streamlining the organization of pharmaceuticals, but the problems remain. Some areas, particularly rural and peri-urban areas in poor provinces, suffer from insufficient equipment and infrastructure, and poor maintenance.
However, Zambia is willing to solve the problems by applying nuclear technologies. ROSATOM and the Republic of Zambia signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Center of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST). The CNST will include a state of the art laboratory complex, multipurpose irradiation center as well as a cyclotron-based nuclear medicine center.
The center offers radio nuclide and proton therapy, radio therapy and PHC city diagnostics.
“The medical imaging with use of nuclear technologies includes Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT), which makes it possible to scan human bodies in a much more accurate way to detect any abnormalities and tumors at the very early stage,” – commented Dmitri Vysotski, Director of Nuclear Research Reactors, Rusatom Overseas. He pointed out that these technologies can be used to examine diverse conditions like blood flow to brain, functioning of liver, lungs, heart or kidneys, and to determine primary oncological disease as well as assess the presence of metastases, etc. “Diagnostic procedures using radiopharmaceuticals have become common practice around the world.” – Mr. Vysotski added.
Zambia is currently experiencing a major increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer. Nevertheless, thanks to nuclear medicine more than 17,000 cancer cases have been diagnosed and treated at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka since it was established 10 years ago, raising hope for Zambia’s fight against the menacing disease.
“Nuclear medicine is the most effective method in the early detection of cancer. The earlier cancer is detected the more likely it is to respond positively to treatment and this generally results in a greater probability of recovery”, – Mr Phumzile Tshelane, the CEO of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA).
Radiation medicine is a vital component of cancer control. Procedures such as X-rays, CT scans and mammograms are used for the early detection and diagnosis of cancer. Radiotherapy can treat and manage the disease and provide substantial pain relief for patients when cure is not possible.
“Radiation therapy, which is a nuclear technology, has been proven over the last 100 years to provide effective diagnosis and cure for cancer. There’s a lot of fear regarding the use of radioactive substances as people believe that it is dangerous. But I’d like to rest people’s anxieties by saying that if somebody has been trained on how to use radioactive substances on a patient or in industry, it is done safely,” – said Ms Kanduza, the hospital’s Chief Medical Physicist of the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka. “Nuclear technology in medicine is very beneficial. It is the only way you can see the inside of the body without opening up the patient. It’s the eyes the doctor uses to see inside the body of a patient.”