NAIROBI, Kenya, July 29 – Public Health Minister Beth Mugo has on Sunday said advocacy and awareness creation would be the key focus areas for the ministry following the coming into law the Cancer Prevention Bill, 2012.
The Minister who arrived Sunday morning from the United States where she underwent breast cancer treatment said it was important for Kenyans to be aware of cancer signs and prevention.
She said in the last financial year, the ministry hoped to start screening services at primary health care level but the parliamentary budget committee reallocated the funds available to the Kenyatta National Hospital to buy cancer equipment.
“This is okay because we are doing the same work. This year we got some money although it is not as much as I had requested. I had asked for a billion shillings but I got Sh300 million. The first work we are going to do is to start screening from health centre level and advocacy to inform people especially the women how to detect cervical and breast cancer,” she said.
She added that the President assenting to the Bill goes to show the urgency of cancer prevention, surveillance and treatment.
“With the Act, now we have the framework with which to work with. So we will make many strides although it is not something that we will be able to finish tomorrow or the day after because a journey has to start with one step,” the Minister stated.
On Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki assented to the Cancer Prevention bill, 2012 that was passed in Parliament a month ago.
The Act seeks to increase access to cancer treatment and care. It also establishes a National Cancer Institute that would encourage and secure establishment of hospitals, vocational treatment and care centers for treatment and care of cancer patients.
The Act will also help decentralise cancer treatment facilities and train more oncologists.
Cancer is rapidly becoming a major epidemic in Kenya often leading to death due to expensive treatment and lack of a proper health system. It ranks third among the main causes of death in Kenya after infectious and heart related diseases with an estimated 82,000 reported cases annually.
Last year, an estimated 22,000 people died of various cancers in the country.
On her treatment, the Minister said she is now well and her doctors at Abramson Cancer Centre have confirmed that there are no cancer cells in her body.
She started treatment in December last year.
“I am very happy to tell Kenyans that I have been completely cured of cancer so I praise God for the healing,” she said upon her return.
Mugo urged Kenyans to keep the environment clean because polluted environment has become a key agent of cancer.
“We should avoid plastics as much as we can, putting food in plastic containers and heating it, it is a big danger. We have to know, what really causes cancer so that people can start preventing themselves, the food we eat, the air we breathe, we keep on talking about planting trees and that is one very important preventive measure to clean the air we breathe,” she advised.
A policy brief on the situational analysis of cancer in Kenya done in 2011 by the department of research, an arm of the Parliamentary Service Commission cites Inadequate facilities, few specialists, high cost of treatment, lack of accessibility to treatment, sedentary lifestyle, lack of cancer awareness, social inequity and unreliable cancer registry as the factors that were backtracking the fight against cancer in Kenya.
It stated that the most common type of cancers in Kenya were breast and cervical for women while men were more affected by the cancer of the oesophagus, neck and prostate.
In children, the commonest were blood cancers-Leukemia and Lymphomas.