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New National Cancer Centre in Mauritius to Deliver Advanced Nuclear Medicine in the Country and Region


The new National Cancer Centre in Mauritius is ready to welcome patients for advanced cancer diagnosis and care. (Photo: Anon/GIS Mauritius)

Mauritius inaugurated its new National Cancer Centre in Solferino on 8 May, marking the culmination of close to a decade of IAEA support to advance nuclear medicine in the country. Expected to radically change cancer care for patients in Mauritius, the new centre will house all oncology services under one roof, including nuclear medicine.

“This ambitious project will undoubtedly improve our healthcare delivery system, providing free healthcare to all citizens and helping position Mauritius as a centre of excellence for cancer care in the region,” said Dr Kailesh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness of Mauritius, at the inauguration ceremony.

A small island in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius’ 1.2 million population faces a growing cancer burden. While traditional diagnostic methods like CT scans and MRIs were already available in the country, the specific nature and complexity of the cancers that are currently on the rise in Mauritius (head and neck, prostate, thyroid, and neuroendocrine tumours) have been placing a strain on existing medical facilities. The country required more advanced and precise diagnostic tools.

In 2018, a comprehensive imPACT Review carried out in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer helped to inform the government’s policy of boosting national diagnostic capacity. Since then, the government of Mauritius has been taking steps to further expand nuclear medicine services within the national healthcare system.

IAEA representative Meena Singelee poses with Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, Minister of Health Dr. Kailesh Jagutpal, and other senior members of the Ministry of Health and new National Cancer Centre in front of the PET/CT scanner that it helped to procure. (Photo: Anon/Ministry of Health Mauritius)

The IAEA has been working closely with Mauritius for many years to build capacity and knowledge in the field of nuclear medicine – the first technical cooperation project in this area dates back to 1983.

Nuclear medicine uses advanced technologies such as PET-CT, SPECT-CT imaging and theranostic applications to diagnose and treat certain types of cancer. These technologies offer detailed insights into the body's internal structures and metabolic processes – valuable information that can help radiation medicine professionals diagnose and treat specific kinds of cancer.

In particular, the IAEA has provided extensive training programmes and workshops for nuclear medicine physicians, radiopharmacists, medical physicists, and technologists, and, with significant government cost-sharing from Mauritius, has delivered PET/CT equipment. These initiatives have bolstered the clinical skills crucial for the effective use of nuclear medicine technologies in line with the latest advancements and safety protocols. The IAEA also provided strategic advice on resource management and quality assurance, helping to ensure that nuclear medicine services are sustainable and safe for patients and staff.

Interventions Shown as Best Practice

As part of the support, IAEA human health experts provided significant technical guidance on the design of the new facilities to ensure they met the operational and safety demands of a top-tier cancer treatment centre.

“To elevate cancer care in the country, integrating advanced technologies with comprehensive training programmes will be essential for ensuring high-quality care that is safe and effective,” Peter Knoll, an expert medical physicist specializing in nuclear medicine from the IAEA Division of Human Health emphasized. “The successful implementation of these technologies depends on close collaboration across multiple disciplines and professions,” he said.

In fact, these interventions have been so successful that Mauritius’ radiation safety infrastructure was recently shown to other Pacific islands as an example of best practice. “Because Small Island Developing States often face constraints due to their size and limited resources, they really benefit from strong South-South initiatives that boost regional collaboration,” explained Javier Romero, coordinator of the IAEA’s Subregional Approach to the Pacific Islands (SAPI) programme.

The new cancer centre in Mauritius is an example of the sort of long-term support delivered by the IAEA under its technical cooperation programme and through the Rays of Hope initiative. “This collaboration is a model of how targeted interventions and global partnerships can effectively address critical health issues, improving lives and shaping the future of healthcare in not just one country but an entire region,” said Meena Singelee, Head of the IAEA Liaison Office in Geneva, who represented the IAEA at the inauguration ceremony and presented the IAEA’s congratulations on behalf of Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

As part of her visit, IAEA representative Meena Singelee met with the Minister of Health Dr. Kailesh Jagutpal and senior officials from the Ministry to discuss Rays of Hope in the context of future plans for cancer control in the country and subregionally. (Photo: Anon/Ministry of Health Mauritius)

During the visit, Ms. Singelee also took the opportunity to meet with senior representatives of the Ministry of Health to discuss national plans for the future provision of high quality cancer services in the country and sub-region, and to brief them on the Rays of Hope initiative. The proactive approach taken by the government of Mauritius to address its needs for improved cancer diagnosis and treatment is a beacon of hope for all patients in the region.

“The inauguration of the National Cancer Centre is the culmination of years of fruitful cooperation between the Government of Mauritius and the IAEA. It bears testimony to the commitment of the government to deliver state-of-the-art healthcare services to the population whilst demonstrating the constant support of the IAEA not only through the provision of high-tech equipment but also by building capacity  through national technical cooperation projects,” said Mr Mohammad Aaftaab Allarakha, Nuclear Medicine Specialist in the National Cancer Centre and the national counterpart for the IAEA’s national technical cooperation project in Mauritius.

The inauguration of this new cancer centre extends well beyond the upgrade of diagnostic and treatment capabilities. It signals a clear commitment on behalf of the government of Mauritius to increase access to affordable cancer care for all of its citizens, regardless of socio-economic status.

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