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All health workers will be given new cancer treatment guidelines that will guide diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease.

The decision is aimed at curbing instances where cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage because of misdiagnosis in initial stage.

The regulations, to be distributed to hospitals next month, are expected to create a uniform way in which medics handle the disease and spare patients unnecessary tests and procedures.

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Mary Nyangasi, who heads the National Cancer Programme at the Health ministry, said the guidelines have been informed by the different ways medics have handled the disease.

Some ways, she said, do not yield the best outcome for the patient.

“Sometimes it is not because patients present themselves late to facilities, but it is also because our healthcare workers do not know what to do with them, and they end up treating them for other ailments,” she said.

Speaking at the breast cancer symposium in Nairobi, Ms Nyangasi blamed this on the referral system, which she noted should be different when handling cancer patients.

“Referral for cancer should not to be to the next level of care like from level three to level four hospital in the case of other diseases, but to the next facility where the particular needed service or specialist can be found,” she said.

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Cancer is the third leading killer disease in the country, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Globocan data shows were 47,887 new cancer cases reported in 2018 with 32,987 deaths. Breast cancer is leading with 5,985 new cases and 2,553 deaths.

“Breast is one of the cancers these protocols should be used, because if (we) manage breast cancer, then we would have managed a quarter of all cancers,” she said.

Nyangasi explained that the protocols will be mandatory for all medics - even those who are not oncologists - because some bits of treatment is done by non-specialists.

Like in the case of breast cancer where mastectomy, the surgical removal of the breast affected by the tumour, is done by a general surgeon.

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She said the guidelines will, for instance, help the surgeons understand the difference between a simple mastectomy and breast conservation.

“Most of the general surgeons who do these surgeries are not specialists so they need to be guided on what to do. For example, they should know the difference between mastectomy and breast conservation,” she said.

“We should examine patients thoroughly so as to avoid unnecessary repeated tests.”

Cancer Health Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
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