, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 10- The Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) has said it is unable to cope with the huge number of cancer patients seeking treatment at the facility.
This is attributed to the fact that it is the only public hospital that offers cancer treatment in Kenya.
The Head of the Cancer Treatment centre Dr Onyango Opiyo told Capital News that the hospital had a two-month waiting list for all new cancer patients which meant that each new patient had to wait for that long before they were attended to by a doctor.
"And we are talking of about 40 new cancer patients per week waiting, so for two months that means about 320 patients waiting at any one time to be seen by a doctor," Dr Opiyo explained.
He said that the cancer treatment centre receives about 4,000 patients each year.
Those patients who require radiotherapy treatment, he said, had to wait for four weeks because the equipment cannot handle the large number of patients while those who required chemotherapy wait for two months.
"It is obvious that there is need for the country to develop other cancer units and this is the area that we are trying to explore. The facilities in terms of the equipment that we have are not adequate and we need more and also we need to have development of manpower in the area of cancer," he said.
"The most important is that we need to have some preventive measures."
He said that cervical cancer topped the list of cancers detected at the cancer treatment centre followed by breast cancer and then head and neck cancer.
Dr Opiyo said this could be the reason why women were also top on the list of patients presenting with cancer.
"Cancer of the cervix is common although it is one of the preventable diseases. A woman can have Pap smear which is a form of examination where we take a specimen from the cervix, and we are able to say whether there is impending cancer or cancer which is already developed," he explained.
"There is even a simpler programme called visual inspection where we just paint the cervix, look through it and we can tell whether there is a cell that is malignant or not," he added.
Dr Opiyo however said cancer is curable as long as it is detected early.
"Unlike what most people say that cancer is not treatable, it is a curable disease. If you took all the types of cancer, 30 percent of those are curable and another 30 percent can have good control of the disease," he said.
"Then there is another 30 percent of the group that you can palliate their symptoms but there is a 10 percent that you can do little about," he added.
He said most of the cancer patients were between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
"The vaccine for cervical cancer is new in the market but there are issues about that vaccine which people have not addressed. The vaccine is not even 100 percent accepted in the developed nations," Dr Opiyo stated.
"It is a vaccine that works but the age bracket it targets is where the problem comes in. It targets ages between nine and 16 years because they are the ones considered not to have engaged in sexual activities," he explained.
On the issue of young women fearing to go through chemotherapy treatment because of early menopause, Dr Opiyo said: "A patient should always ask themselves whether they should fear going through chemotherapy because of early menopause or should they fear the disease itself."
He said majority of the patients who go through chemotherapy for breast cancer developed early menopause because the drugs interfere with the ovaries while for cervical cancer it is 100 percent that they would go through early menopause because the treatment also includes radiotherapy.