By Evans Ongwae
Up to 30 percent of cancers are preventable. When the disease is caught early, it does not have to be a death sentence.
Dr Tracy Irura shared this view during an interview as Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) prepared to host its first annual conference on cancer, being held today and tomorrow (July 5 and 6, 2022) at the institution's facilities in Nairobi under the theme: “Optimising African Multi-Disciplinary Cancer Care”.
Dr Irura is the conference chairperson. She said one of the focus areas would be prevention, with the sub-themes of the conference being:
- Patient Empowerment, Survivorship, and Advocacy
- Prevention, Screening, and Early Detection
- State-of-the-Art Diagnostics, Therapeutics, and Interventions
- Research and Innovation in the East African Landscape
- Strengthening Medical Health Systems and Policies.
The event has attracted hundreds of participants from across the world, coming together to exchange information on advances in cancer diagnosis, treatment, care, and research.
Oncology has been a flagship programme at KUTRRH since 2019. Thus, the hospital has invested heavily in advanced equipment for diagnosing and treating cancer. It has young and vibrant team of medical professionals who collaboratively tackle cancer under a multi-disciplinary approach. These professionals include skilled surgeons, radiologists, haemato-oncologists, gynae-oncologists, nutritionists, and palliative care experts. All these professionals help to provide comprehensive cancer care at the hospital.
KUTRRH works with various partners to address the different aspects of cancer management.
It has a wellness centre where it screens patient for cancer and spreads awareness about the disease among Kenyans.
The centre provides three different packages that offer full-body check-ups. These look at non-communicable diseases, aiming to provide early warning or diagnosis for different illnesses.
According to Dr Irura, the fight against cancer will hit new levels when community healthcare workers are better trained on the early signs and symptoms of cancer and comprehensive health centres are set up around the country.
She notes that the country is making headways in preventing cervical cancer by vaccinating girls and boys with the HPV vaccine. This will eventually lead to eradication of cervical cancer.
As part of capacity-building to increase the number of medical professionals to help fight cancer, KUTRRH also features oncology nursing programmes, which aim to train nurses who want to specialise in the field.
Dr Irura adds that though NHIF has reduced the financial burden on patients immensely, one of the major challenges remains the cost of treatment. “We hope to see more support from the various industry stakeholders to make precision medicine available to our cancer warriors,” she says.