Go early for cancer screening, Kenyans urged

Counties Editor's Pick Nakuru

As the world marked the 15th anniversary of the Cancer Day, Nakuru County Governor Mr Lee Kinyanjui urged Kenyans to go for early screening and treatments as a step towards winning the war against the disease.

Kinyanjui noted that according to data from the devolved unit’s health department, fewer men compared to women are checked for cancer.

The governor asserted that most cancers were treatable if diagnosed early. He called on Kenyans to change their perception of the disease as a death sentence.

According to statistics by the Ministry of Health, the national uptake of screening stands at 16 percent.

He said there was need to bridge the gap between screening and medication, adding that most cancer cases are diagnosed late when nothing much can be done.

According to the Kenya Cancer Network there are about 40,000 new cases of cancer each year in the country that leads to 28,000 deaths.

“This year’s World Cancer Day is celebrated with the theme: “I am and I will” a reminder that each one of us can play a role in reducing the impact of cancer. This is a disease that can be managed if detected early. It is not a death sentence,” he said.

“My administration has recognized the burden cancer has on families and communities and set up an ultra-modern oncology centre at the Nakuru County Referral Hospital,” the County boss said in an interview with Kenya News Agency.

Mr Kinyanjui said statistics from the health department indicated that the leading cancer reported in men within the devolved unit was that of the prostrate while incidents of breast and cervical cancer were high in women of reproductive age.

Throat and eye cancer in children were also common.

The statistics from the Ministry of Health also rank cancer as the third leading high mortality disease in Kenya followed by infectious diseases, with cervical cancer as the top cause of death among women followed by breast, uterine and oesophagus cancers.

The statistics indicate that about 6,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported every year in the country.

Official records, Mr Kinyanjui observed, revealed that though numbers of those checked was going up, most men shied away from screening centres. He urged Kenyans to enroll with National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to cater for treatment.

He noted National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) offers an oncology package that covers radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions.

With an NHIF card, a patient can get up to 20 radiotherapy sessions as well as six chemotherapy sessions that can cost up to Sh25, 000 each.

The governor affirmed that Universal Health Coverage can only be achieved if the country is focused on the prevention of killer non-communicable diseases with no signs in the early stages such as cancer.

County Executive Committee Member for Health Dr Zachary Kariuki Gichuki observed that though cancer has been associated with the rich, the disease was now very common among middle and low income earners in the country

Dr Gichuki also encouraged parents to take their 10-year-old girls for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

He disclosed that the cervical cancer screening services remain available in all public health facilities within the devolved unit, and appealed to all eligible women to visit their nearest health facilities for screening at least once a year.

Dr Gichuki advised men between 35 and 50 to go for prostate cancer screening adding that 16 hospitals and 26 health centres in the county were screening free of charge for breast, cervical and prostate cancer.

He however said it was not practical to screen for all cancers. The county, he stated only screen for the commonest types.

Since the Oncology centre was established at the Nakuru Level 6 Hospital four years ago, more than 25,000 cases have been reviewed. Over 3,000 have undergone chemotherapy.

Prior to the establishment of the department, patients in need of cancer treatment were referred to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

More Kenyan women die from cancer than men, according to the World Health Organization’s research agency.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s Globocan data shows that the disease claims 18,772 women compared to 14,215 men yearly. Women also lead in new cancer cases with 28,688 getting the disease compared to 19,199 men, representing 56 percent of the total new cases.

In the next five years, the Globocan data shows, Kenyan women will continue bearing the brunt as cancer rates are set to rise twice faster than in men.

The Health County Executive Committee Member said there was a glimmer of hope for patients requiring Radiotherapy sessions who have to travel to Nairobi, as Nakuru County has started construction of a Sh500 Million Radiotherapy centre.

Cancer accounts for seven percent of annual deaths in Kenya and is now a common illness. Cervical cancer the second most common, can be prevented through vaccination.

 by Anne Mwale

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