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Cancer still the second leading NCD in Kenya

Cancer still remains the second leading Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) in Kenya after cardiovascular diseases with 42, 000 new cases recorded every year as per World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said 27, 000 cancer related deaths are also recorded every year with leading cancers being breast, cervical, prostrate, esophageal and colorectal.

She said most of these cancers can be prevented through screening and early diagnosis which was not the case as the majority of patients seek medical attention in late stages when it is difficult and expensive to treat.

Speaking on Friday during the launch of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in Runyenjes Stadium in Embu, the CS said the narrative could be changed if all Kenyans adopted good health-seeking behavior including going for regular medical checkups.

She noted that the government had acquired all the necessary tools to fight the disease with cervical cancer being the first one marked for elimination.

The CS noted that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) was the main cause of cervical cancer with its infection causing up to 99 per cent of all cervical cancer cases.

She however said there was a ray of hope in preventing the spread of cervical cancer as it takes 10-15 years for the changes in the cervix caused by HPV to develop into cancer.

“This gives us an opportunity to screen and treat to prevent the disease,” she said, noting that the vaccine targeting HPV infections was available that was safe and effective.

She said the vaccine was available free of charge in all facilities providing routine immunization for children across the country.

“We are working towards vaccination of 90 per cent of girls from the ages of 10-14 years, screening of 70 per cent women between 35-49 years and providing treatment and care for 90 per cent of women identified with cervical cancer,” the CS said.

She said in collaboration with Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Ministry had distributed over 800 thermal ablations for treatment of pre-cervical cancerous lesions to health facilities across the country.

CS Nakhumicha also said for the first time the Ministry had introduced HPV-DNA testing in 27 county referral hospitals which was the recommended standard method for cervical screening.

She said the government will continue empowering Community Health Workers (CHWs) on cancer using the training materials developed to educate communities and mobilize them for screening and HPV vaccination.

The CS reported that as the government seeks to transform NHIF to a social insurance, it will look into the packages so that screening, diagnosis and treatment for cervical cancer was well covered for all Kenyans.

Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire said since they launched awareness month early this month, they had managed to screen only 1, 797 women which she said was a small number compared to the population of women in the county.

She said there was a need to empower Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) with proper training on cancer prevention, diagnosis and testing in order to win the war on cancer right from the grassroots.

Mbarire said CHVs should be facilitated by being given a monthly stipend to motivate and help them move around in promotion of primary healthcare.

By Samuel Waititu

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