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By EUNICE KILONZO, SATURDAY, 9 MAY 2015, Daily Nation (Kenya)
Over 10,000 cancer patients in Kenya spend Sh11.28billion [US$118 million] for treatment in hospitals overseas. Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said as a result, the number of patients visiting local facilities is low, making treatment expensive. Mr Macharia called on private doctors to encourage their cancer patients to seek treatment in the country instead of hospitals abroad to help reduce cost. He said the government, alongside availing cancer equipment worth Sh21.5billion in at least 94 hospitals across the country, was setting up four cancer radiology centers set to be launched by July.
The centres will be launched in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nyeri counties and is also set to cater for patients from other countries in East Africa. “Have faith in yourselves and refer cancer patients to local cancer centres. The cost of cancer treatment in India has been made cheaper by the large traffic of patients, it can be the same here,” said CS Macharia. He added: “We are investing to save lives. Cancer affects each one of us. People should not die because of late cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Mr Macharia spoke in Nairobi during a breakfast meeting for sponsors of the 9th Breast, Cervical and Prostate Cancer Conference scheduled for July 19 to 21, 2015 in the country. Cancer is ranked number three after infectious diseases and cardiovascular ailments in causes of deaths in Kenya. At least 40,000 cancer cases are reported each year, according to the Ministry of Health. Globally, cancer kills more than HIV, TB and malaria combined, with about eight million deaths yearly.
Country Program Leader for PATH Kenya Rikka Trangsrud said the major obstacle towards cancer management is fragmented efforts in addressing the diseases. She called for “the development of joint policies and interrelated, comprehensive service programs.”
Speaking at the function, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta urged Kenyans to adopt healthy lifestyles and eating habits that strengthen their immunity systems to avert cancers. “We must now return to our roots and re-introduce into our diets healthy foods such as sweet-potatoes, arrow-roots, yams cassava and boiled foods,” Ms Kenyatta stressed. She also emphasised the need for regular check-ups to improve the chances of diagnosing and treating the disease during initial stages.
“We are losing 60 Kenyans per day to various versions of the disease – nearly 3 people each hour. These figures need to serve as a wake-up call to each one of us – no one is safe from the disease,” she said. The July cancer Conference is set to bring together first ladies, parliamentarians, ministers of health, health professionals, scientists, advocates against cancer, The previous conference was held in Namibia.