Radiation in Medicine Helps Kuwait’s Cancer Control Programme

Kuwait City – The use of radiation in medicine using state-of-the-art diagnostic methods for radiography, angiography and computed tomography to diagnose and follow treatments in cardiology and cancer control is among the pillars of Kuwait’s health programme, which is supported by the IAEA.

“For Kuwait, access to quality and affordable health care is one of the priority areas of the government. For decades, the biggest user of nuclear and radiation technology in Kuwait has been the health sector,” said Nader Al-Awadi, Executive Commissioner for International Cooperation at Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research.

Focusing on cancer control, Kuwait has invested in advanced medical technology to meet the growing demand for cancer diagnosis and treatment —including for patients from abroad. The Kuwait Cancer Control Centre (KCCC) offers surgical services, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pediatric oncology and palliative services, said Meshari Al-Nuaimi, Head of the KCCC’s Radiation Physics Department. “We have established extensive radiation oncology facilities to treat cancer using external beam, radionuclide therapy and brachytherapy techniques.”

In addition, the KCCC is a national reference hospital for cancer treatment and has also been selected as a regional centre for nuclear medicine, he added. 

Services to combat cancer

The KCCC’s Nuclear Medicine Department has an integrated approach to cancer control with four dedicated units: general nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT), medical physics and a central radiopharmacy unit.

A range of services provided includes diagnostic imaging, therapeutic and PET/CT hybrid imaging services for patients referred from different clinical departments, said Al-Nuaimi. “Currently, more than 1000 new patients receive radiation treatment as part of their therapy, using radioisotopes iodine-131, lutetium-177 and actinium-225.” The Department contributes to the management of around 80% of cancer patients, he added.

The KCCC’s central radiopharmacy unit supplies all nuclear medicine services in Kuwait with ready-to-use radiopharmaceuticals for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the KCCC has a cyclotron, for the production of short-lived radioisotopes and a PET radiopharmaceutical production facility.

The country’s Ministry of Health is currently constructing a new cancer center which will have six bunkers for linear accelerators, or LINACs, a machine used to deliver radiotherapy in cancer treatment. It will also provide services in brachytherapy. The new center would also be equipped with two computed tomography simulators and a magnetic resonance imaging simulator. In addition, two PET/CT and a PET/MRI will be installed in the new center.

Public outreach: there is hope

Kuwaiti experts at the same time focused on educating the public on the role of nuclear medicine, said Al-Nuaimi. “We have public information campaigns, workshops as well as exhibitions that highlighted the importance of early detection and diagnosis.”

Information on types of cancer, how it can be treated, what are the available diagnostic procedures are among the concrete efforts undertaken by the KCCC to raise awareness.

There are also counselling services to help people who have cancer and those who have to be of support. The KCCC has dedicated courses for its highly skilled nurses and health professionals on a regular basis to ensure that they are up to date with the latest advances in handling cancer patients and steps to ensure that treatment is done with a sense of compassion and care, said Al-Nuaimi. “Our aim is to remove the cancer fear, encourage positivity that cancer is treatable and there is hope with the availability of advanced medical techniques.”

IAEA supports national cancer care efforts

The IAEA’s support to Kuwait has enhanced the quality and expanded the capacity of nuclear medicine for diagnosis of non-communicable diseases, particularly cancer.

Various IAEA technical cooperation projects have supported Kuwait’s efforts to enhance accurate recording, reporting and analysis of patient radiation doses in hospitals, which has also led to the establishment of diagnostic reference levels to ensure the safety for patients who are given radioisotopes for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. IAEA assistance has contributed to improving quality assurance that included a Quality Management Audits in Nuclear Medicine Practices (QUANUM) review. Under these projects, significant improvements in optimizing dosimetry levels for radiation medicine have been achieved, Al-Nuaimi said.