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Gov’t unveils national cancer summit 2023

The Government has unveiled the publicity for the first ever National Cancer Summit 2023, scheduled for 2nd to 4th February next year, under the theme, uniting our voices and taking action.

Speaking while he launched the Summit, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Wafula said cancer remains a major public health concern in the country, being the third leading cause of death in Kenya.

In a speech read on her behalf by the Acting Director, Preventive and Promotive Services Dr. Andrew Mulwa, the CS noted that the inaugural convention on cancer control will be held alongside the global commemoration of the World Cancer Day, that is held in February each year, thus enhancing our joint advocacy efforts towards improving cancer control.

In 2020, she said, the country reported 42,000 new cancer cases and 27,000 cancer-related deaths, adding that the top five cancers are those of the breast, cervix, prostate, oesophageal and non – Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She elaborated that the five cancers account for nearly half (48 per cent) of the cancer burden in the country regretting that nine women die every day due to cervical cancer, while nine in every 10 persons with oesophageal cancer will succumb to the disease.

“Currently, the majority of persons diagnosed with cancer will succumb to the disease since approximately 70 per cent of cases are diagnosed in advanced stages when cure is almost impossible. Through collaborations with County Governments, we have enhanced access to cancer screening through training of primary health workers and distribution of screening equipment to health facilities across the country,” said the CS.

Further, Wafula stated that public funded treatment services have been enhanced through the establishment of more than ten county chemotherapy centers, three regional comprehensive cancer treatment centres in Mombasa, Nakuru & Garissa and the center of excellence in oncology at the Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital, where latest technologies such as molecular imaging and cyber knife treatment have been made available for all Kenyans.

Also, she noted that through the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, her administration has envisioned a chronic disease fund that will further bolster the financing for cancer interventions and stop the capital flight due to medical tourism for cancer services.

She expressed that The National Cancer Summit 2023 will provide an appropriate platform for stakeholders from across all sectors to, among other discussions, deliberate on the recommendations arising from the Cancer Taskforce Report, review the progress made over the last 10 years in addressing the cancer burden, identify areas of learning from successful strategies and together, formulate solutions for collective action.

“I call upon our noble partners and well-wishers to join hands with us in making the summit a resounding success. I particularly wish to recognize Roche East Africa and the City Cancer Challenge who have already committed to partner with us through sponsoring the execution of the summit and call upon other partners to come on board,” Wafula said.

In his remarks the Inaugural National Cancer Summit 2023 Chairperson Dr. Githinji Gitahi said it is quite unfortunate that 76 people die of cancer every day.

He said cancer bears an immense cost to the nation as it robs us of precious lives at an unprecedented rate, majority being in their most productive age.

In addition, Githinji noted, families suffer financial catastrophe as a result of the high costs associated with accessing comprehensive cancer care services.

“What concerns us so much is that two out of every patient who are diagnosed die in the year of diagnosis. This is because majority of them are diagnosed at a late stage,” said Githinji adding that screening is a key role of the County Governments and it should be done early enough.

Githinji highlighted that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is working with the ministry of Health to establish an advisory service for cancer patients so that when someone is diagnosed with cancer and does not know where to get help locally or abroad can be advised accordingly.

He urged cancer patients to attend the summit scheduled for 2nd-4th February2023 and be heard so as to help them get back to active economic and social participation.

By Catherine Muindi

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