Health experts have warned that multiple challenges among them high cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment are delaying progress in cancer prevention and control in Kenya.
Speaking during a media roundtable organised by Pfizer, the experts say limited-service availability and poorly coordinated cancer management and referral, general lack of public awareness and knowledge on cancer prevention and control, inadequate human resource availability and capacity for cancer prevention and control, are some of the other challenges hampering cancer prevention and control in the country.
They added that lack of multi-sectoral coordination structures and collaboration for effective risk factor reduction and cancer prevention, limited funding for cancer prevention and control and limited cancer research both in capacity and availability to inform policy also significantly limit progress in the management of breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. The more we learn about this pervasive disease, the clearer it becomes that breast cancer is not one disease, but many. We recognize there is still more work to be done to improve the outlook for people living with breast cancer, including those with metastatic HR+, HER2-, triple negative and BRCA-mutated breast cancers as well as those with early-stage disease who may be at an elevated risk of recurrence,” said Dr. Alfred Karagu, Chief Executive Officer, National Cancer Institute.
He added breast cancer interventions; from screening to treatment, are estimated to save 236,000 lives annually.
Cancer is the third leading cause of death both globally and in Kenya and the second leading cause of Non-Communicable Diseases deaths after cardiovascular diseases. According to GLOBOCAN estimates, the annual incidence of cancer was reported as 47,887 cases in 2018 and 42,116 in 2020.
“Low survival rates in sub-Saharan Africa are largely attributable to late-stage presentation. Because organized, population-based mammography screening programs may not be cost effective or feasible in low-resource settings, efforts to promote early detection through improved breast cancer awareness and clinical breast examination by skilled health providers followed by timely and appropriate treatment, are essential components to improving survival,” said Dr. Mohammed Ezzi, Medical Oncologist and Lecturer at the Department of Clinical Medicine and Therapeutics, School of Medicine, University of Nairobi.
The Kenya Health Facility Assessment conducted in 2018 shows that Readiness to offer cancer prevention, management and control services was highest for cervical cancer at 85%, and lowest for breast cancer care at 6%. Only 2% of facilities were conducting definitive tests for breast cancer, like fine needle aspiration and core needle biopsy. Only 1% of facilities had histopathology services.