Newly appointed Director for Africa at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Shaukat Abdulrazak over the ravages of cancer in the country 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 percent
“Cancer research in Kenya is not commensurate with the magnitude of the problem basically due to inadequate funding and training facilities in cancer research,” Abdulrazak said in Nairobi on Tuesday when he held talks with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.
Nuclear energy is used in developing countries to treat cancer through radiation medicine — radiotherapy and chemotherapy although adopting a health 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.
Abdulrazak who becomes the new IAEA Director of Africa (Technical Division) said the few available cancer specialists are only concentrated in a few health facilities in Nairobi.
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,” Abdulrazak said.
He 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.
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 Kenya Medical Research Institute (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.
Abdulrazak 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.
Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri said the ministry of health is currently mapping the entire country over the causes of cancer in the region.
Marsabit in northeast Kenya and Meru in eastern Kenya areas have been given priority in this regard following increased cases of cancer.
Muraguri 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.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta 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.
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. Enditem