The Kenya Society of Haematology and Oncology (KESHO) has called for a multi-sectoral approach in tackling the scourge of cancer and other haematology related ailments in the country.
According to the Global Cancer Data (GLOBOCAN), roughly 42,000 cancer patients in Kenya were diagnosed in 2020 and recorded a mortality of about 27,000 patients. These numbers, from KESHO’s perspective, are an indication of the need for concerted efforts from Government, health insurers and by extension the private sector in mitigating the bane of cancer.
Speaking during the 7th Kenya International Cancer Conference, KESHO Chairperson Dr. Miriam Mutebi said that it was time to come up with alternative and more innovative mechanisms that will assist in solving the cancer question.
She noted that it was a task that was not necessarily solely the responsibility of one sector, but a cross sectional mandate that will curb mostly the financial burden that is hinged on many Kenyans affected by the disease.
“We need to handle this issue from a multi-sectoral approach, we have the National Hospital Insurance Fund which is key, but more innovative and creative strategies need to be employed to support that, in order to alleviate mostly the tenacious cost implications,” said Mutebi.
A key pointer to the collaboration between players in the health sector has been the continued support and capacity building given by the Ministry of health (MoH) and its partners, including KESHO, to health care workers.
Dr. Mary Nyangasi Head of the National Cancer Control Program at MoH noted that in the last year, the ministry had trained more than 6,000 health care workers on how to screen and treat cervical cancer that was diagnosed in the early stages.
“One of the mandates of the Ministry is to conduct capacity building and training and in the cancer space, we have done a lot together with our partners,” said Nyangasi.
She also said an e-learning platform had been developed by the MoH which gives a virtual content guide on early diagnosis of cancer.
These are part of the collaborative and innovative leads that the MoH has come up with to assist and in-turn keep up with the evolving global dynamics in mitigating cancer.
On his part Prof. Nicholas Abinya, consultant Oncologist at Nairobi Hospital Cancer Centre reiterated the Ministry of Health position on working to improve capacity and expand the cancer treatment package within the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) which so far caters for screening services.
Abinya also encouraged cancer patients to seek medical attention from local hospitals in the country as they are equipped with the requisite facilities and offer specialist services.
“Our doctors are managing quite reasonably the situation as it is. There is a referral system and procedure in the event that a particular case cannot be handled in the country,” said Abinya.
“Consultation is done before any recommendations happen as opposed to haphazard referrals of patients abroad as is synonymous with many people,” added Abinya.
In Kenya, cancer is the 3rd leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.
The Kenya Cancer Policy 2019-2030 provides for a framework to comprehensively address cancer control in Kenya through the systematic implementation of evidence-based interventions for prevention, screening, timely diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and palliative care, financing, monitoring, and research.
By Fatuma Said and Andrew Hinga