In every one hour, four people die of cancer translating to 90 deaths every day and this is what makes it the third leading cause of mortality in Kenya.
According to experts, Cancer is therefore a complex disease whose prevention and control requires a focused and coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-ministerial approach.
Giving the Cancer situation in Kenya and what is needed, Cancer Civil Society and Cancer specialists have jointly said that firm and deliberate government-led interventions together with stakeholder participation can significantly reduce the number of cases and deaths from cancer.
Speaking on Thursday during a joint press conference at the All Saints Cathedral, Experts noted that comprehensive cancer care requires interventions that are well thought through, well-resourced and based on sound scientific evidence.
“The government has policies and legislation in place to reduce the incidence and prevalence of cancer in Kenya, however without adequate funding and structures to implement the policies the war against cancer is far from being won,” said the experts.
The Chairperson of Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO), Dr. Catherine Wachira said National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) should provide comprehensive package offering 100 percent cover for all forms of cancer treatments and the necessary supportive care needed by cancer patients.
“Many patients are paying for laboratory tests, scans, screening and X rays that are not covered by the fund,” Wachira said.
She observed that while the NHIF has made a huge impact in cancer care, the fund only covers a portion of the cancer treatment and has never shared with stakeholders on the criteria for deciding how much NHIF pays for each patient.
NHIF needs to work closely with the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) which currently stocks only limited number of cancer medications which according to the experts should be expanded to all anti-cancer medicines based on the National Treatment guidelines.
Dr. Sitna Mwanzi, the Chairperson of Kenya Society of Hematology and Oncology (KESHO) urged the government to focus on improving cancer services at the grassroots level and few strategic County hospitals.
“There is need to structure public education and cancer prevention and screening at primary care facilities,” she added noting that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) should be enabled to take up the role of advising on investment in cancer infrastructure to ensure equitable and rationale distribution of services.
Dr. Mwanzi explained that the clamour for a cancer center in every county is unrealistic and unaffordable and that what is needed is integration of basic cancer services at all levels of health care from the community units to the tertiary levels.
The Cancer specialists drawn from both KENCO and KESHO have urged the government to regulate advertisement of cancer causing products such as advertisements for alcohol, tobacco products, sugar sweetened beverages and unhealthy foods to children by increasing taxation on the products to reduce consumption.
They further asked the government to allocate funds towards the implementation of National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022 to help reduce deaths, pain and suffering for cancer patients.
The specialists were reacting to concerns by Kenyans following the deaths of two prominent Kenyans – namely the Governor of Bomet Joyce Laboso and Kibra Legislator Ken Okoth both of who succumbed to Cancer in late July.
By Wangari Ndirangu