• Lawmakers say the focus should be on awareness, checking on lifestyle, prevention and early diagnosis.
• They met to discuss the Cancer Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
Investing in sophisticated and expensive cancer healthcare facilities without putting more emphasis on primary care will lead us nowhere, MPs said on Tuesday.
They called for a focus on causes and prevention measures. The legislators spoke during a National Assembly Health committee. They met to discuss the Cancer Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
This comes as Kenyans mourn Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.
Collymore passed away at his home on Monday morning. In October 2017, he went to the UK to receive treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. He returned in July last year to resume duties. He has left behind a wife and four children.
The draft law sponsored by Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga seeks to compel the authorities to ensure cancer treatment is part of primary healthcare.
"We have accepted that cancer is real and can affect anyone. Kenyans have poor health-seeking behaviour. We should check our lifestyle, prevention and if these don't work, we should have early diagnosis mechanisms," Seme MP James Nyikal said.
Should the bill become law, it will be a vital step towards addressing the cancer burden in the country. Cancer will be treated at the basic level rather than focusing on the specialised level as is currently the case.
"The most important thing is creating awareness. Most Kenyans, especially in rural areas, should be told the signs and use of simple things like self-breast examination," Nyikal said.
Because most people in rural and remote areas are unaware of their status, the bill proposes training of oncologists to ensure greater access to trained cadres in the field.
The bill also seeks to promote e-health and telemedicine in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
"This will embrace the use of technology by helping eliminate distance barriers and improve access to medical services not available in distant rural communities," Wanga told the committee.
The bill also tasks the National Cancer Institute with promoting e-services.
According to a 2016 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, cancer is the third largest killer in Kenya after pneumonia and malaria.
It is estimated that 39,000 new cases are reported each year, with more than 27,000 deaths over the same period. HIV-Aids, anemia, heart diseases and tuberculosis follow in that order.
Generally, deaths have been on a downward trend with the exception of those resulting from cancer.
The leading types of cancer are breast cancer, in both men and women, and prostate cancer.
(Edited by F'Orieny)