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First ‘nuclear medicine’ to treat cancer in Cambodia

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The exterior of the new National Cancer Centre, a state-of-the-artfacility at Calmette Hospital. Heng Chivoan

First ‘nuclear medicine’ to treat cancer in Cambodia

Cambodia's National Cancer Centre at Calmette Hospital conducted its first nuclear medicine treatment workshop on Monday to create awareness about the treatment. Experts, meantime, recommend that Cambodia have a cancer registry to provide better patient care.

Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital doctor Sobhan Vinjamuri said Cambodia must establish a national cancer registry.

“One of the most important things to have is a good feel of how many patients there are, and those who require and could benefit from the treatment."

“So, I was speaking to the Calmette team, to have a cancer registry for the country. At the moment, they are working on it,” said Vinjamuri.

He said it is important to have accurate numbers to improve cancer care. The World Health Organisation (WHO), he said, estimates 600 [people affected by thyroid cancer] per year should benefit [from nuclear medicine].

“For me, it is a big gap between the estimated number of [people affected by thyroid cancer] in the country and the number of patients coming to this hospital for treatment. So, I think [the] first important thing is to get a feeling for the number of patients who can benefit.”

Vinjamuri said nuclear medicine is not a new area and is safe for human disease management.

Calmette Hospital deputy director-general Kong Sonya said this is the first nuclear medicine treatment offered in a hospital in Cambodia. Sonya said people travelled abroad to seek treatment for thyroids despite it being available nationally.

“The demand is very [high]. So far, people are going for treatment outside the country. We hope we could make a contribution with the government to reduce costs spent abroad on health treatments.”

Sonya said Calmette Hospital trained two of their nuclear medicine staff abroad.

Director of Cambodia’s National Cancer Centre Eav Sokha said the centre has offered cutting-edge treatment, such as nuclear medicine, hematopoietic stem cell transplantations, chemotherapy and paediatric oncology since January this year.

“Even doctors don’t know what it is or how to use it. So, we want to raise awareness and increase treatments."

“Maybe [people] don’t know. And, maybe doctors don’t know either that [nuclear medicine] is available at our hospital,” said Sokha.

Only 30 patients were admitted to the national cancer centre while an estimated 600 people nationally are affected by thyroid cancer from May to October.

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