The prevalence of cancer is increasing worldwide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO agency, reported 14.1 million new cancer cases, 8.2 million deaths resulting from cancer, and 32.6 million people living with cancer around the globe.
In Kenya, cancer is the third-leading cause of death. The Globocan 2018 report reveals that 47,887 Kenyans get cancer every year and 32,987 die from the disease.
Kenya currently has limited personnel, with only 12 facilities to diagnose and treat cancer — seven private hospitals, two mission hospitals, and three public facilities. It has four radiotherapy centres, mostly located in urban areas.
The country’s first cancer policy was developed in 2011. This was followed by the 2012 Cancer Act (amended in 2015), governing the establishment of a National Cancer Institute. It also decentralised prevention and treatment in the counties. The National Guidelines for Cancer Management was created in 2013.
The most recent guideline is the National Cancer Control Strategy, launched in 2017, which addresses interventions from screening, improved access to medicines and essential technologies, palliative care and a supporting population-based cancer registry network.
Women 4 Cancer chairperson Benda Kithaka says that the strategy covers all priority areas in cancer treatment and prevention.
“It is divided into five priority areas, prevention which includes early detection and screening, diagnosis through registration and surveillance, treatment both in palliative care and survivorship as well as coordination, ranging from partnership and financing. The final priority area is monitoring through evaluation and research,” she says.
Nairobi Hospital acting CEO Chris Abeid says prevention, early detection and cancer screening are key in fighting cancer.
“Early detection can result in better treatment outcomes, less morbidity and even lower costs of treatment. It can be achieved through early diagnosis and through screening,” he says.