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Lack of cancer patient’s data hampering care in Kitui County

Dr. Richard  Muthoka, the  Kitui County Chief Officer of Health, addressing the press in his office on Tuesday July 23, 2019. Photo by Yobesh Onwong’a/KNA.

Kitui County is compiling data for all its cancer patients spread across in 200 medical facilities to offer them specialised centralised treatment, Dr. Richard Muthoka, the Chief Officer of Health (COH) has said.

Speaking  to the press in Kitui on Tuesday, Dr. Muthoka said that the county was grappling with lack of data of cancer patients due to improper record keeping but the rolling out of compiling data across the facilities would remedy the situation.

“We have partnered with a cancer specialist from Kenyatta National Hospital who visits Kitui County Referral Hospital every Saturday to attend to cancer patients. Several patients have started their chemotherapy treatment,” said the medic who doubles up as the acting County Executive for Health.

Dr. Muthoka noted that increased awareness of warning symptoms and signs of cancer and taking prompt action by the general public as well as physicians, nurses and other health care providers could have a great impact on the disease through early diagnosis hence more effective management.

The medic said that some early signs of cancer included lumps, sore that fail to heal abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion and chronic hoarseness could be detected by healthcare professionals in the county in a bid to start early treatment.

“Early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. It comprises early diagnosis in symptomatic populations and screening in asymptomatic high risk populations,” said Dr. Muthoka.

He added that based on existing evidence, mass population screening is advocated for breast and cervical cancer. Other cancers that are commonly screened for include prostate and colon.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, in Kenya, it is estimated that the annual incident of cancer is about 28,000 new cases with an annual mortality of 22,000 cases with Kitui recording between 300 to 400 deaths annually.

Over 60 per cent of those affected are below 70 years while the risk of getting cancer at the before the age of 75 is 14 per cent. The leading cancers in women are breast, cervical and esophagus. In men, esophagus, prostate cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma are the most common.

The  Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) documents that 80 per cent of reported cases in the country are diagnosed at an advanced stage, leaving few options for remedial treatment.

Late diagnosis, combined with the lack of and uneven distributions of cancer diagnosis and treatment facilities, personnel, and equipment, highlight the importance of a National Cancer Control Programme as a fundamental next step for Kenyan policy.

The government has demonstrated commitment to reducing cancer mortality as evidenced by policies such as the National Cancer Control Strategy (2011–2016).

Additionally, the Cancer Prevention and Control Act (2012) called for the establishment of a National Cancer Institute of Kenya (KNCI) to advise the Cabinet Secretary, collect and analyze research data, collaborate with partners, disseminate information, and support treatment facilities and training.

“In Kitui, cancer patients can be treated at Kitui County Referral Hospital under the watchful eye of specialists drawn from Kenyatta National Hospital,” said Dr. Muthoka.

By  Yobesh Onwong’a/Andrew Mutemi

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