THIRD KILLER

Inside KU hospital's new cancer imaging centre

The facility is equipped with a cyclotron machine to produce consumables for the PET/CT scan.

In Summary

•A number of deaths are as a result of infrastructural and resource limitation in the health sector.

•As a result, majority perish because their cancers are diagnosed when they are at advanced stages hence too late to curative treatment.

The PET scan machine at the Kenyatta University Referral Research and Teaching Hospital, which also unveiled a cyclotron machine.
The PET scan machine at the Kenyatta University Referral Research and Teaching Hospital, which also unveiled a cyclotron machine.
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

Kenyans will no longer have to travel outside the country for specialised cancer treatment.

This is after the first ever Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre and Hospitality centre was opened at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital.

 The ultra-modern medical facility is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to offer comprehensive cancer management services.

The first comprehensive cancer centre in the country and the region, it will offer early diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

It covers 635 square metres located on three floors and a bunker for the cyclotron. The key function of the cyclotron machine is to produce radioisotopes (consumables) that are used to prepare the dosage injected into the patient for early diagnosis of cancer through the PET/CT machine.

The centre is also expected to offer accommodation to at least 100 patients and their families.

“The scourge of cancer has bedevilled the country for decades causing untold suffering and forcing many families to seek cancer diagnostic and treatment outside Kenya. Thousands of Kenyans who have been traveling overseas in search of Medicare will now get quality treatment in Kenya,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said during the commissioning of the centre.

Uhuru said the Hospitality Center at the hospital will ensure families will stay closer to their members accessing treatment at the facility further reducing overhead costs.

“The centre will ensure that family can stay close to their loved ones receiving treatment here, while also providing accommodation for outpatients from far a field as they await subsequent rounds of treatment; eliminating the need for the long back-and-forth journeys that levy a heavy toll on their health and recovery,” the President said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the commissioning of the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre and Hospitality centre at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital on October 16, 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta during the commissioning of the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre and Hospitality centre at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital on October 16, 2021

He further urged Kenyans to register with National Hospital Insurance Fund, adding that NHIF will cover the cost of cancer diagnostic tests further eliminating the need of travelling overseas in search of quality medical care.

According to Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, a number of deaths are as a result of infrastructural and resource limitation in the health sector.

As a result, majority perish because their cancers are diagnosed when they are at advanced stages hence too late to curative treatment.

Data from the Health ministry shows cancer is the third leading cause of death in Kenya after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.

The data shows the annual incidence of cancer increased from 37,000 to 47,887 new cases with mortality rising from 28,500 to 32,987 between 2012 and 2018.

With the commissioning of the new centre, the impact is to be witnessed in the areas of early diagnosis, improved survivorship, reduction in waiting time, cost of treatment and a significant reduction in cancer realted deaths.

Kagwe said the opening of the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre is yet another milestone in increasing access to quality healthcare for all Kenyans particularly, for cancer patients.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the commissioning of the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre and Hospitality centre at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital on October 16, 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta during the commissioning of the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre and Hospitality centre at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital on October 16, 2021

The CS said prioritizing the achievement of the Universal Healthcare Coverage remains a critical pillar of the Government strategy for sustained socioeconomic development adding that the launch of the imaging centre will bring the cost of healthcare significantly down.

“Indeed, the Health Ministry remains committed to spearheading the achievement of the strategic objectives of the Kenya Health Policy (KHP) 2012–2030 by ensuring the provision of health care to all Kenyans in the most affordable, equitable, accessible, and responsive manner,” Kagwe said.

KUTRRH board chairperson Professor Olive Mugenda said the Integrated Molecular Imaging Center will be critical in addressing the gap in screening and diagnosis of cancer in the country.

Data from Kenyatta National Hospital shows that about 64 per cent of cancer patients in Kenya are diagnosed at advanced stages when treatment is difficult to achieve.

Projections show cancer cases will rise by about 70 per cent in the next two decades, with significant and rising economic effects.

Cancer care in the country at both national and county government levels has in the past years suffered from inadequate financing.

Even though up to 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented, Kenya continues to grapple with a high burden of risk factors. 

For instance, about 27.9 per cent of Kenyans are overweight and obese, while 94 per cent do not consume adequate fruits and vegetables.

“It is important to build the capacity of our health workers at the lower level to catch these cases early because if they are caught early then chances of the outcomes being better will be higher,” NCI CEO Alfred Karagu said.

Tobacco use among adults is about 13.3 per cent, while alcohol use is at 19.3 per cent.