Over 200 people have been diagnosed with cancer in the on-going screening campaign in the county.
The ‘Cancer Voices Campaign’, being spearheaded by Governor Peter Munya’s spouse, Phoebe, has so far covered four of the nine sub-counties.
Currently, the exercise is being carried out at various health centres in Mitunguu in South Imenti Sub-county.
According to Health Executive William Muraah, cancer cases in the county are caused by various factors including aflatoxin as a result of poor grain storage.
Mrs Munya, who has taken the campaign to Igembe South, Igembe North, Buuri and Igembe Central so far, said out of the 2,505 women who turned up for screening in the first sub county, 29 tested positive for cervical cancer.
“An additional nine had breast cancer. Nine men were diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Mrs Munya, who was accompanied by Dr Muraah added.
In Imenti Central, 28 women were found to have cervical cancer, while eight men had enlarged prostate,” she said.
So far, 44,001 residents in the four sub-counties have been screened. At the first health centre visited (Mitunguu) in Imenti South on Monday, four women had cervical cancer, and another one of them at a very advanced stage, according Phoebe.
Nine residents had mouth cancer and one other stomach cancer. Six had throat cancer while 20 tested positive for enlarged prostate. The county government launched the campaign to cover the entire region after it emerged that many cancer cases had been reported there.
Mrs Munya, who comes from Imenti, but is married in Tigania, now uses her influence to convince residents to turn up for the screening, after it emerged many, especially men, were opposed to screening.
“Most cancer patients at Kenyatta National Hospital come from Meru. So when the health department intervened to rescue residents, I decided to be part of it,” said Phoebe.
Dr Muraah said apart from procuring cancer drugs worth Sh6 million this year, they also procured cancer treatment machines at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“Many cancer cases are as a result of poor grain storage that produces aflatoxin. In Igembe, military ordinance is suspected, but more research is needed to establish other causes,” said Dr Muraah.
“Storage of grains in wet conditions leads to formation of aflatoxin which causes cancer. It worries us that 15 per cent of patients seeking radiation therapy at KNH were from Meru,” Muraah said.
Muraah said the department is sending two doctors to India for a two-year course on cancer treatment.
“We are also paying salaries of cancer specialists at the Meru Hospice,” he said.
Phoebe adds: “I decided to partner with the county government to take the free screening to rural and urban areas in Meru.
A Sh600 million cancer centre is being undertaken by the county, in partnership with Royal Phillips.
“We are putting Sh200 million in the next financial year for it. It is a public-private partnership, a Build-Operate and Transfer arrangement,” concluded Muraah.