Rise in cancer cases in Kenya worryingBy SUSAN WARAU | Wednesday, March 28 2012 at 11:04
In recent months, various news reports indicate an emerging trend: the increasing incidence of cancer in Kenya.
Indeed, the number of prostate cancer admissions at the country's leading referral hospital, the Kenyatta National Hospital, has increased by 75 per cent from 80 in 2004 to 140 in 2008.
These numbers do not account for patients attending the hospital’s outpatient unit or the ones consulting doctors in private clinics. This means the figures are actually higher, and quite possibly a similar trend has been observed for other cancers as well.
This phenomenon is not limited to Kenya. An increase in the occurrence of cancer is projected across Africa over the next 20 years.
A review article published in the International Journal of Cancer in January reports that in 2008, there were 618,000 new cancer cases, with 512,000 deaths in the continent.
The article, whose authors are affiliated with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, estimates that by 2030, there will be 1.27 million new cases in Africa, with 970,000 deaths.
These estimates are based on projections of population growth and aging alone. They do not account for any changes in incidence rates that might occur due to more “westernised” lifestyles or increased alcohol intake and smoking.
Worldwide, there were about 12.7 million new cancer cases with 7.6 million deaths in 2008. At least 56 per cent of these cases and 64 per cent of deaths were in the developing world.
It is expected that these numbers will increase, with Africa bearing the brunt. Most countries, Kenya included, are barely prepared to deal with the disease burden.
While these statistics are devastating, with proper intervention strategies, we can turn the tide. For a start, education and awareness would go a long way in demystifying cancer.
For a long time healthcare initiatives have focused on fighting HIV/Aids and malaria. Cancer, on the other hand, is shrouded in mystery and fear. Many believe that it has no cure once diagnosed.
The truth is that people do recover from some cancers if detected early. Unfortunately about 90 per cent of cancers in Africa are detected at late- or end-stage.
This reduces the chances of survival.
In addition, there has been little investment in healthcare infrastructure and public health services making it impossible to adequately treat patients.
Further, while information on cancer in the developed world abounds in scientific literature, the pool of studies on Kenya and Africa as a whole is limited Lessons from Europe, Asia and North America may inform healthcare professionals and policymakers in Africa, but disease patterns vary among populations.
The pivotal role of the government in remedying the situation cannot be underestimated. It is encouraging that Kenya's Ministry of Health is reported to be holding talks with the University of Pennsylvania with the aim of establishing a cancer treatment centre and initiating research collaborations with local universities.
However, even with foreign assistance, the government needs to step up research funding in teaching hospitals and universities. This should include upgrading facilities, providing the most modern instruments, and developing human resource.
Ms Warau is a PhD candidate in Chemistry at the University of Connecticut, USA.
Should Kenya spend $8.2 million to acquire an office for retired President Kibaki?speak out
Read Story: Should Kenya spend $8.2 million to acquire an office for retired President Kibaki?
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Nigerian deportee demands pay for Kenyan officials' release
- Ethiopia secures $300m Indian rail loan
- 7 Kenyans held in Lagos over deported 'Nigerian'
- Clinton to visit Senegal ahead of Obama
- Nile saga: Ethiopia and Egypt now favour dialogue
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Nairobi in pictures: Past and present
- Hospital quiet on Museveni birth records mystery
Beyond the ballot