NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – Kenya still has a long way to go in providing modern and efficient facilities to cater for cancer patients, even as the world engages in different activities to mark the breast cancer month.
Breast Cancer Association Vice Chairman Newton Siele told Capital News that the government had equipped only one cancer unit to serve the whole country.
“As of now, we only have one operational cancer treatment centre in the country which is at Kenyatta National Hospital,” he said.
According to the International Atomic Energy Foundation – which is the UN body that deals with cancer treatment using radiotherapy – one radiotherapy unit is supposed to serve 250,000 people.
Mr Siele said Kenya needed about six centers to comfortably spread the services throughout the country.
To facilitate this, he said the Breast Cancer Association together with other stakeholders were pushing the government to come up with a Cancer Control Bill to improve treatment in the country.
He said the Bill would seek to force the government to allocate resources for an autonomous cancer unit that would deal with treatment, diagnosis and also research into cancer.
He said there would be need to carry out research to establish accurate statistics on cancer cases.
The Bill would also pave way for the creation of an independent cancer institute since the country currently relies on the World Health Organisation Statistics and Nairobi Council Registry which collect data only from public hospitals.
“We don’t have enough accurate statistics on cancer and we know for a fact there is some certain percentage where we are not as accurate,” he said.
With concerns that cancer may become the number one killer disease in 10 years time, Mr Siele said it was vital for Kenya to quickly push the Cancer Control Bill.
Cancer in men
He also said breast cancer cases were on the rise even in men. Last year the government estimated 82,000 cancer cases annually with 21 percent of them being breast cancer.
Out of the 21 percent, one percent of the cases are in men.
“We can count with out fingers how many men turn up for breast cancer examination; men should also watch out because even here at Kenyatta Hospital we have seen men with cancer,” he warned.
Mr Siele expressed concern that 70 percent of breast cancer cases were presented at late stages when the disease had already progressed. He called on people to go for early check ups or do self breast examinations for early detection which saves life and breasts.
“Being diagnosed with cancer is definitely not a death sentence and definitely it does not mean you will lose your breast,” he advised.
He said newer forms of treatment and surgery had allowed doctors to be able to manipulate cancer in a way that one does not have to lose his or her breast as long as cancer cases are presented at an early stage.
He also said Kenya had about 10 doctors who can treat cancer unlike before when they were very few. But he hoped that the government would go the extra mile to set up modern cancer units and train more doctors to arrest cancer cases in the country.
Mr Siele also said he was pleased that soon Kenya was likely to enjoy modern cancer facilities with MP Shah Cancer Unit expected to start operations before end of this year. The Aga Khan University Hospital is also installing another centre.
Mr Siele urged the government to upgrade the cancer unit at the national hospital with modern equipment.
October is the World Breast Cancer Month which targets at creating awareness. Every 4th of February marks the World Cancer Day.