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Kenya hopes to leverage on nuclear energy by 2022 to control cancer

Nairobi, Kenya: First Lady Margaret Kenyatta today held  extensive discussions with the newly appointed Director  for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  Professor Shaukat Abdulrazak over the ravages of cancer in the country.

Prof. Abdulrazak who becomes the new IAEA Director of Africa (Technical Division)   said if all goes as planned, Kenya will have its nuclear energy in the next seven years, a period when the country also hopes to have the first batch of   locally trained oncologists according to the Director of Medical Services Dr. Nicholas Muraguri.

Nuclear energy is used in developing countries to treat cancer through radiation medicine--radiotherapy and chemotherapy although adopting a healthy lifestyle is billed the best preventive measure against the killer disease.

It is estimated that the annual incidence of Cancer in Kenya currently stands at 28,000 cases and the annual mortality by the disease at 22,000.

Cancer is now ranked the third cause of death among Kenyans after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Over 60 per cent of those affected by cancer are below the age of 70 years.

According to the regional cancer registry at Kemri, about 80 per cent of reported cases of cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages, when very little can be achieved in terms of curative treatment.

Poorly structured referral facilities, inadequate diagnostic facilities, inadequate screening services and low awareness of cancer symptoms have been  singled as the key obstacles to the battle against the disease.

Professor Abdulrazak , who is also the Vice Chancellor of Umma University (Mombasa) and Dr. Muraguri had paid a courtesy call on the  First Lady whom they briefed on the  cancer situation in the country.

The First Lady is the current chairperson of the Forum of  African First Ladies and spouses against Breast, Cervical and Prostrate  Cancer.

The First Lady hosted a successful 9th Stop Breast, Cervical and Prostrate Cancer (SCCA) conference in Nairobi in July this year.

In his brief to the First Lady, Prof. Abdulrazak said the risk of getting cancer in Kenya before age 75 stands at 14 per cent while the risk of dying from the disease is estimated at 12 per cent

He said the few available cancer specialists are only concentrated in a few health facilities in Nairobi.

“Cancer research in Kenya is not commensurate with the magnitude of the problem basically due to inadequate funding and training facilities in cancer research”, said Prof. Abdulrazak..

He said IAEA has been working for more than 40 years to bring radiotherapy and nuclear medicine programmes to over 100 countries.

“The need for radiotherapy is very high in developing countries. Less than 40 per cent of patients in the developing world who need this live-saving treatment can access it today”, he said.

Prof. Abdulrazak underlined the need for the country to invest in infrastructure development in medical facilities and training adding Kenya should be the African hub for medical tourism which India is now generating millions of dollars from.

Dr Muraguri said the ministry of Health is currently mapping the entire country over the causes of cancer in the region. Marsabit and Meru areas have been given priority in this regard following increased cases of cancer.

He said Nairobi and Moi Universities will start the training of the first batch of oncologists who will be expected to graduate in the next 5-7 years. More centres of training will also be rolled out in other regions to ensure the country has adequate specialists over cancer.

The First Lady asked Kenyans to adopt health lifestyles including physical exercises and  eat more traditional foodstuff as compared to  highly processed foods associated with some diseases.

She said Kenya will mark a major milestone when nuclear energy becomes available in the war against cancer.


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