Fifteen new cases of cervical cancer are reported in Nairobi every week, the Health ministry has said. The disease, often caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, can be prevented by a vaccine for girls. It can be successfully treated when diagnosed early.
Health PS Nicholas Muraguri said the government plans to introduce the vaccine following successful pilot tests in Kitui county in 2013. The vaccine is available in the private sector and costs about Sh7,000 per dose. “... we need to encourage women to go for early detection and screening,” Muraguri said.
Cervical cancer is the second-most frequent cancer among Kenyan women and the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. The estimated number of cervical cancer cases annually is nearly 3,000, while the death toll is about 1,600. By 2025, the number of new cervical cancer cases annually will reach 4,200, according to the Kenya Cancer Registry.
However, Kenya lacks proper financing. The 2012-15 cancer control programme quietly expired last year with little reaction. No specific vote was made for cancer control in the Health ministry’s Sh60 billion budget last week. Speaking during a cervical cancer forum in Nairobi, Muraguri said another strategy will be launched next month and will focus on screening and early detection.
“Cancer is becoming the new threat to our survival. The number of new cases and deaths is almost equal; it’s like everyone who gets cancer dies. Given the disease patterns that we are now seeing, you’re likely to die of cancer or any other non-communicable disease,” the PS said. Muraguri said the disease will be given high priority as are HIV, malaria, TB and maternal health.
“Screening for cancer is part of the NHIF package but people are not making use of these opportunities. Many cases of cancer are presented late, which raises treatment costs,” he said.
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