World Cancer Day; WHO reveals number of deaths from cancer by 2021

In 2021, the world crossed a sobering new threshold, an estimated 20 million people were diagnosed with cancer, and 10 million died.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these numbers will continue to rise in the decades ahead.

“And yet all cancers can be treated, and many can be prevented or cured,” says WHO.

Efforts to fight the diseases, were, however, disrupted on the back of a heightened coronavirus pandemic.

In a survey published in October 2021, more than half of countries reporting indicated that cancer screening and treatment had been partially or completely disrupted during the pandemic.

From 2012 to 2018, the annual incidence of cancer increased from 37,000 to 47,887 new cases. During the same period, annual cancer mortality rose almost 16 percent, from 28,500 to 32,987.

The World Health Organization reckons that of the approximately 41,000 Kenyans diagnosed with cancer annually, about 28,000 die.

However, the public hospitals that are majorly frequented by Kenyans are overstretched and poorly equipped. This is the reason thousands of Kenyans travel to India, South Africa, UK, US and others to seek specialised treatment in areas such as oncology, cardiac surgery, advanced neuro-spine surgery, transplant surgery, and assisted reproductive technology, spending millions of shillings.

More than 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad each year for treatment of various ailments, especially cancer. Government data shows that this costs Kenya about Sh15 billion annually.

Speaking during the unveiling of the Kenya Cancer Policy 2019-2030, the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr. Rashid Aman disclosed that the document provides a framework on how to comprehensively manage the cancer burden in the country, through systematic implementation of evidence-based interventions in the area of care.

He pointed out that through Managed Equipment Service (MES), the Ministry has availed x-ray, CT-SCAN equipment, ultrasound and mammography machines, to the counties to boost cancer diagnosis.

 “Ten county chemotherapy centers, have been established in collaboration with the counties, and are all operational and fully functional,” he said.

He confirmed that the Ministry is supporting the centers with appropriate cancer drugs, especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure continued service delivery.

“This means that basic cancer care can now be accessed at a nearby county health facility and I am urging our cancer patients, on active treatment as well as those on follow up, to embrace and utilize these services,” he said.

Cancer being the leading cause of death worldwide, some of the factors that bring about the disease are the use of tobacco, alcohol, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet and air pollution.

Other factors that that cause cancer include chronic infections particularly found in low- and middle-income countries.

These can, however, be prevented by different ways including reducing one’s exposure to air pollution, avoiding Ultra Violet (UV) rays, doing physical exercise regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not using tobacco just to name a few.

In the case of early detection, either through screening or early diagnosis, one can receive treatment which may result to a higher chance of survival with less anguish. Cancer treatment needs one to be correctly diagnosed as different cancer types have different treatments.

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