State of Cancer Control in Rwanda: Past, Present, and Future Opportunities

Posted on September 13, 2020

Rwanda is a densely populated, low-income country in East Africa. Previously considered a failed state after the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, Rwanda has seen remarkable growth over the past two decades. Health care in Rwanda is predominantly delivered through public hospitals and is emerging in the private sector. More than 80% of patients are covered by community-based health insurance (Mutuelle de Santé). The cancer unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Center (a branch of the Ministry of Health) is responsible for setting and implementing cancer care policies. Rwanda has made progress with human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccination. Recently, the cancer unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Center launched the country’s 5-year National Cancer Control Plan. Over the past decade, patients with cancer have been able to receive chemotherapy at Butaro Cancer Center, and recently, the Rwanda Cancer Center was launched with two linear accelerator radiotherapy machines, which greatly reduced the number of referrals for treatment abroad. Palliative care services are increasing in Rwanda. A cancer registry has now been strengthened, and more clinicians are becoming active in cancer research. Despite these advances, there is still substantial work to be done, and there are many outstanding challenges, including the need to build capacity in cancer awareness among the general population (and shift toward earlier diagnosis), the cancer care workforce (more in-country training programs are needed), and research.

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