NAIROBI, Kenya’s Ministry of Health plans to establish four regional centres in Kisii, Nakuru, Nyeri and Mombasa under public-private partnerships (PPPs) to treat patients suffering from cancer, which ranks third as a cause of death in Kenya after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

The move is aimed at reducing the congestion at the country’s national referral hospitals and bring healthcare closer to the public, says Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Health Dr. Cleopa Mailu, who notes that the government has enhanced diagnosis and treatment of cancer through the National Hospital Insurance Fund cover for chemotherapy, radiotherapy, CT scans, MRI and monthly clinic checkups, which have markedly reduced waiting time and long queues at Kenyatta National Hospital here.

The Cabinet Secretary, who was represented by the Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko, at the launch of the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022 here Tuesday, said Kenya recorded 40,000 new cancer cases and more than 27,000 deaths from cancer annually.

According to Dr. Mailu, more than 60 per cent of cancer patients in Kenya are below the age of 70 years with the risk of getting cancer before the age of 75 years standing at 14 per cent, and the risk of dying from the disease at 12 per cent.

He attributed the rising burden of cancer to four shared behavioural risk factors which are influenced by economic transition — rapid urbanization and adoption of unhealthy lifestyles such as tobacco use; consumption of unhealthy diets and insufficient physical activity; harmful use of alcohol; and increased exposure to environmental carcinogens.

It is for this reason that the Ministry of Health has launched the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022 which outlines comprehensive interventions to be undertaken by both the national and county governments in collaboration with others to reduce the incidence of cancer and improve the quality of life of those who develop the disease in Kenya, said Dr. Mailu.

The Strategic Plan, he explained has interventions aimed at reducing the number of people who develop and die of cancer, while ensuring better health outcomes and quality of life for those living with the disease.

The strategy also addresses interventions for cancer control ranging from a comprehensive national cancer screening programme, improved access to medicines and essential technologies, palliative care and a supporting population based cancer registry network.