Hospital initiates a discussion on how Africa could best tackle cancer

1st Annual KUTRRH International Health Conference

By Evans Ongwae

Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) is hosting a multi-disciplinary cancer conference today and tomorrow (July 5-6, 2022). This inaugural conference is expected to ignite debate and spur collaboration on how Africa can best tackle its growing cancer burden.

During the conference, KUTRRH will also unveil its first health journal. The hospital will publish the journal during each annual health conference.

Prof Wangari Mwai, KUTRRH’s Director for Training, Research and Innovation, reveals that more than 500 delegates from all over the world will attend the event either in person or virtually.

The conference, she adds, provides an opportunity for delegates to exchange ideas on how to tame one of the biggest health challenges facing the world. Delegates to the conference include leading medical professionals and scientists from around the globe.

More than 30 speakers from Africa and the rest of the globe will deliver presentations on cancer prevention, detection, screening, treatment and palliative care.  Of the 30, eight are from KUTRRH, a national referral hospital that seeks to generate research to address some of Africa’s urgent health issues.

The conference, being hosted under the theme, “Optimising African Multi-Disciplinary Cancer Care”, has lined up five international speakers led by keynote speaker, Prof Dr Roland Repp, Oncologist and Extraordinary Professor at the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany. He will talk about “Challenges in Multi-disciplinary Cancer Care”.

Prof Mwai says delegates will discuss cancer under various sub-themes. These are: Prevention, Screening and Early Detection; Patient Empowerment, Survivorship and Advocacy; Strengthening Medical Health Systems and Policies; and Research and Innovation in the East Africa Landscape.

She says KUTRRH’s multi-disciplinary approach to cancer in Africa is informed by the havoc that the disease wreaks on families. “Managing cancer is expensive and this stresses people,” she points out, noting that the disease places a heavy economic burden on families.

Prof Mwai says it is important that Africa, through research, finds ways to deal with this onerous burden. To begin with, people need to understand the causes of the disease to be able to prevent it. Secondly, people should embrace early detection to avoid going to hospital for treatment when they are already badly off.

“How can we prevent it or diagnose it early enough for it to be managed and ultimately eradicated from the body?” she poses and says, among other things, a cancer awareness drive should be targeted at communities.

Prof Mwai also wonders whether people shouldn’t turn more to nutritionists to know the right kinds of food to eat to avoid getting cancer. “Can diet help in keeping cancer at bay?” she wonders.

She recommends that people should look beyond visiting oncologists and consider examining themselves for anything odd; for example a lump, then seek diagnosis to know whether the strange tissue is cancerous or benign.

“Most often, people will ignore a growth if it is not painful,” observes Prof Mwai, and urges them to seek medical assistance, nonetheless.

KUTRRH is playing her part in cancer management with an array of state-of-the-art diagnostics, therapeutics and treatment interventions. The hospital’s Integrated Molecular Centre (IMIC), a game-changing facility, hosts the newest, most modern equipment for detecting and treating cancer.

IMIC has specialised nuclear doctors who use state-of-the-art technology such as the cyclotron and PET/CT based diagnostics and management of outpatient treatment plan.

Hence, says Prof Mwai, Kenyans don’t have to go outside the country for cancer care. KUTRRH, she stresses, has the necessary equipment and medical professionals.

The hospital now has Africa’s first CyberKnife, an advanced, painless, and non-invasive radiotherapy technology that precisely targets cancerous tumours without harming surrounding healthy tissues.

Also, the hospital has Africa’s second Cyclotron, used to diagnose cervical, prostate, breast, gastric and oesophageal cancer. “These are the most common cancers that hurt our people,” Prof Mwai explains.

The hospital does early cancer diagnosis using PET/CT scan, a nuclear medicine imaging test. The test combines both positron emission tomography (PET) with x-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging to evaluate how the body works. The PET/CT results are ready as soon as the scan is completed.

KUTRRH is an established national referral hospital equipped with modern medical amenities. It is well endowed to offer oncology; molecular imaging; trauma and orthopaedics; renal; specialised clinics; maternity and paediatrics; critical care; accident and emergency; and other health services.

For more information about KUTRRH’s first health conference on cancer, visit www.kutrrh.go.ke/health-conference/


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