NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 – Cancer patients have appealed to the government to subsidise cancer treatment in the country to enable more people access the life saving cure.
Speaking during the launch of cancer information booths at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on Thursday, the patients who suffer from breast cancer and cervical cancer among others said that the government should offer similar treatment with that which it provides for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
The patients said that the State should also provide comprehensive care support including counselling.
“Like now I am told I will need medication, which will cost me Sh52,000 per dose excluding the doctors’ fee and this is to go on for six weeks. It seems like the government has forgotten us,” said Teresia Waceke, a breast cancer survivor amidst sobs.
Ms Waceke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, she was treated but four years later her cancer began to spread. She said she now has to seek treatment again.
Ms Dalila Muasya, another breast cancer patient, said: “I have cried enough. I want to say the government, non-governmental organisations and foreign bodies should come in and assist us.”
“I urge the government, please come in, we have tried everything we can but we don’t have anything, we are like a voice in the wilderness, no one is listening to us, no one is coming to our aid,” said Ann Maina, a cervical cancer patient.
KNH Deputy Director, Dr Charles Kabetu said the high cost of cancer treatment has hindered most patients living in the low socio-economic status from accessing the much needed therapy.
“We are confronted by a deadly disease that has touched the families and close friends of most of us. We know that this deadly disease can be controlled or cured and must act now. Let us work together to generate resources, develop and implement coordinated strategies and plans in order to fight this deadly disease,” Dr Kabetu said.
He said 30 percent of all cancers were curable, while a majority could be effectively prolonged and their symptoms controlled.
The Ministry of Public Health promised that plans were underway to expand cancer treatment services in the country.
Deputy Director, Division of non-communicable diseases, Dr William Maina, said cancer services would soon be provided at the Coast and Kisumu General hospitals.
Dr Maina said 82,000 new cancer cases occurred in the country annually and this could rise to 3.5 million in the next 10 years if no immediate action was taken.
“I appreciate the great work that is being done by the KNH cancer treatment centre; I know the burden is very high. We have lots and lots of patients coming to this only public health facility that provides cancer treatment and you cannot actually handle the workload,” he said.
“We want to see that we have a framework that puts cancer in the map of our health priorities.”
Head of Cancer Department at KNH, Dr Anselmy Opiyo, said the cancer unit at the hospital was overstretched handling about 4,000 new patients annually and 150 diagnosed patients everyday for radiotherapy.
“We get patients from all the eight provinces in the country. We find ourselves in a very difficult situation many a times because we are very few, and the equipments are also very few,” Dr Opiyo said.
“But at the same time we have to do something in order to satisfy those who come to seek our services.”
Dr Opiyo noted that 70 percent of the patients who sought treatment did so when the disease was already at an advanced stage.
“Many times it is too advanced and we give treatment depending on the presentation and we make major decisions on what should happen in terms of the treatment. But we are normally faced with a very difficult situation of explaining to patients what would eventually happen,” he sadly noted.
“At this time we find ourselves with patients who are very emotional, the doctors and other workers equally become frustrated as they go on managing these patients. We keep on asking ourselves, why?"