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Govt urged to fund cancer research

NAIROBI, September 13 – The government was on Saturday called upon to provide more funding for research into the causes of and preventative measures against cancer.

The chairman of the Kenya Cancer Association Joseph Kaguthi lamented that that the country still relied on data conducted in the developed world because funds allocated for research into the disease were negligible.

“We are not satisfied with the kind of budget ratio allocated for the preventative aspect of the health sector,” he observed.

He added that the ideal move would be for the government to triple the budget set aside for the sector and research in this area.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 10 million new cases of cancer worldwide and this is projected to increase to 20 million by the year 2020 thus surpassing infectious diseases like HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In Kenya, according to the Nairobi Cancer Registry, breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer among women.

Speaking during a free clinical breast health and cervical cancer education clinic at Nakumatt Lifestyle, Kaguthi added that the Medical Services ministry should be more involved in awareness campaigns.

“We want them to start doing extension services so that where they are problems, they can be addressed before they get out of hand,” he said.

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He encouraged all members of the public to learn how to conduct self-examinations on their breasts as the first step to fight the disease.

“We want everyone to come out and learn how to examine their breasts for any changes, know about the pap smear test for the cervix and thereby take charge of turning the tide on cancer,” he advised.

Early detection of the various forms of cancer could lead to the prevention of some cases and also reduce the number of deaths resulting from the disease.

The screening has been known to cut the number of deaths by up to one third among women aged between 40 and 60.

Kaguthi also urged all corporates to sponsor such initiatives so that they could take the campaigns to all parts of the country.

“We have enough volunteers who have the time and the energy to spread the information on this disease. It is the resource base that we are lacking,” he added.

He revealed that his association would in the next few months ran a campaign where they would train a few journalists from all vernacular stations on how to disseminate information on effective ways of preventing cancer.

“Instead of condemning the vernacular channels, we could use them to as a vehicle for communicating with individuals from their home areas,” he explained.

He was optimistic that a few months after the launch of the initiative, many households would hear about the preventative measures.

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“We want to ensure that every home is aware of what measures they can take to prevent cancer because early prevention is better that cure,” Kaguthi added.

During the clinic, hundreds of women turned up at the supermarket to have free breast cancer screening tests.

The clinic, which was organized by the Aga Khan University Hospital and the retail chain aimed to create awareness and diagnostic services to the public.

Nakumatt Operations Director Thiagarajan Ramamurthy said they would host such events that are geared at educating the public on these two forms of cancer in partnership with the hospital.

He noted that although traditionally breast health camps are held in October, they were presenting people with an early opportunity to undertake the tests and learn more about the disease.

“We are also encouraging all our shoppers to take advantage of this limited period offer to undertake specialised diagnostic services such as pap smears and mammography,” he appealed.

Ramamurthy revealed that they had spent more than Sh5 million in the last two years to facilitate medical awareness for the community.

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