Counties to have cancer centres, pledges Kibaki
President Kibaki has promised that the government will put up cancer control centres across the 47 counties. The President said 80 per cent of cancer cases in Kenya are diagnosed late when a patient’s chance of recovery is minimal, mainly because of lack of facilities. “We are setting up facilities in our counties to cater for more Kenyans in need of these services,” he said yesterday after opening a new oncology and cancer care centre at the Nairobi Hospital.
Currently, no public hospital has a specialised cancer centre. The disease has become the third biggest cause of death in Kenya, according to ministry of medical services. “What is important is not to cry on how these things are spreading but to spread the centres of treatment,” Kibaki said. Medical Services minister Anyang’ Nyong’o said separately the government would partner with the private sector to establish the centres.
Nairobi Hospital’s new centre becomes the third such in Kenya, after the Aga Khan and MP Shah hospitals. President Kibaki said last year 28,000 cancer cases were diagnosed while 22,000 people were killed by the disease. He also encouraged women to regularly examine their breasts for breast cancer. “Self examination especially for symptoms of breast cancer should be encouraged,” he said.
The government also announced the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, will be introduced in public hospitals. The vaccine is usually given to school girls before they become sexually active. Cervical cancer is the second most common in women after breast cancer in Kenya. Abnormal cells grow out of control forming tumours. These tumours often rupture into wounds and if untreated cause serious illness and death.
Nyong'o raised concern that cancer treatment in private hospitals is expensive and individual patients’ bills regularly run into millions of shillings. “Such centres should however be accessible to the ordinary mwanachi,” he said. He urged president Kibaki to assent to the Cancer Control Bill, which was passed by Parliament last month.
The Bill creates a specialized Cancer Prevention and Control Institute to coordinate all cancer control programmes in Kenya. The Bill also makes it illegal for insurance companies and banks to force clients to screen for cancer before extending them health covers and loans. Nairobi Hospital CEO Dr Cleopas Mailu and board chairman Dr Chris Obura also attended the launch.
* For the record