Cancer patient undergoes radiation oncology treatment in Tanzania

In the summer of 2017, an international team of experts in radiation oncology, including radiation therapist Cynthia Collins, brought hope and healing to cancer patients who live in the East African country of Tanzania.

Collins joined the efforts of RAD-AID International, an organization committed to answering the need for more radiology and imaging technology in the most vulnerable regions of the world. She was selected to join the RAD-AID team as part of an international charities campaign to improve medical relief to underserved countries.

“I am humbled to have had the opportunity to share my knowledge and 30 years of experience as a radiation therapist to help those less fortunate,” Collins said. Half of the world lacks radiology services and capabilities, according to RAD-AID. Without radiology, the majority of cancers in mostly poor and underdeveloped countries such as Tanzania — with an estimated population of 52 million — often go undetected and untreated.

Collins, along with other members of RAD-AID, treated 14 patients with radiation services in areas of Tanzania. Eight patients were treated on the “Imagin” Conventional Simulator, with another six treated on the Bhabhatron II Cobalt treatment unit. The medical equipment was donated by the government of India.

Since radiology is a part of nearly every segment of healthcare, including pediatrics, obstetrics and surgery, the absence of radiology contributes to the global health disparity, RAD-AID found. “We had many challenges with workflow,” Collins said.

“However, we managed to improve efficiency by implementing regular morning meetings to highlight issues and make recommendations to improve from the previous day.” One of the goals was to help the Bugando Cancer Center develop standards for simulations and treatment guidelines. “I believe I made some lifelong friendships while working at Bugando,” Collins said.

RAD-AID International has a very robust program in Tanzania. Since 2015, the organization has been involved with a clinic in Arusha and recently signed agreements to provide services in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. “In my short time there, I believe that we made a positive impact,” Collins said.