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Nuclear physician opts to stay at home and bolster fight against cancer

Alphonse Msomi with his mom Ntombizodwa.
Alphonse Msomi with his mom Ntombizodwa.
Image: UKZN

The first nuclear physician to have trained in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Alphonse Msomi, plans to put his skills to good use in fighting cancer.

"I could go to Gauteng or the Western Cape but there are already dozens and dozens of doctors in this field [there], so one person doesn't make much of a difference.

"It is always more satisfying to see yourself doing something that impacts a life in the community that you grew up in and know," Msomi said.

The 31-year-old recently graduated with a Fellowship of the College of Nuclear Physicians of SA, from The Colleges of Medicine of SA. He is currently a medical officer in the nuclear medicine department at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital.

"I chose this particular speciality because there was a
definite need for it. There are very few nuclear doctors in KwaZulu-Natal. With a population of about 10million, there are only about five such doctors. It is also an area that I find interesting," Msomi said.

He explained that nuclear physicians administer drugs combined with small amounts of radioactive material, either by injection or capsule.

"We track where the radioactive material and the drug are in the patient's body and using that information we are able to diagnose certain types of diseases," Msomi said.

"In addition to that, with higher doses of radioactive material combined with drugs, we can treat some cancers."

Msomi's career choice was influenced by his mother's profession as a midwife, but at different ages his preference changed. "At one stage I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but I always wanted to be in the medical field," he said. For his research towards a Master's degree in medicine, Msomi is exploring the use of nuclear medicine scans in patients with carcinoma - a cancer that develops from epithelial cells - from an unknown primary cell.

"In this region not much research of this sort has been done compared to other parts of the world like Europe and North America. Our population is different, however, in terms of ease of access to resources and the majority of our patients are only seen once the disease is advanced."

From the data already collected, Msomi is seeing that patients benefit in that fewer scans need to be done once an initial PET-CT scan has been done. - TimesLIVE

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