In the last two decades, Kenya has waged a vicious war against cancer yet the threats remain real and startling. Today, it is third in the list of top killers in the country, accounting for 7 per cent deaths after infectious diseases and heart ailments. Current cancer trends, spread across all ages, are disconcerting. In 2012, there were just 20,000 reported cases. Now, the number has risen to 41,000 annually, and there are fears the figure could rise.
In 2015 for instance, 973 new cases of men were handled at the Texas Cancer Centre in Nairobi while the number of women was 1,503. In 2017, the number of new cases had almost doubled with a 47 per cent surge for all cases.
During this cancer prevention month, getting the bigger picture may mean asking a lot of questions and retracing the path we have travelled as a country in the health front. Lack of awareness, high cost of treatment as well as limitations in healthcare infrastructure are the stickiest stumbling blocks.
This is why we believe that probable lethargy and non-commitment by state actors and stakeholders should end now if the war against cancer is to be won. It can never be too late to get it right. The National Cancer Control Strategy, hammered out in 2011, was well thought-out but the blueprint is yet to fully achieve its far-reaching objectives.
More has to be done to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality to enhance survival rates through better diagnosis, treatment and care. That’s not all. There is need to establish a robust national cancer registry besides improving existing treatment centres and putting up new ones in every county.
There’s more to gain in providing affordable drugs and ensuring we have better facilities manned by enough specialist doctors whose work is supported by favourable policies. It’s doable, it isn’t rocket science. Kenyans travel abroad to seek treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy technologies should be readily available. Like every developing economy, Kenya is beleaguered by resource constraints but this notwithstanding, more needs to be done to overcome the cancer challenge.