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Cancer Advocacy Groups Call For Increased Patient Involvement In Shaping Cancer Research and Treatment

Cancer patient advocacy officers and researchers are calling for increased patient involvement in shaping approaches to cancer research and treatment in Kenya.

This is aimed at addressing the alarming challenges in breast cancer care and management to reinforce existing health policies, program planning, and healthcare delivery approaches.

Speaking during a media roundtable facilitated by Pfizer, representatives from Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO), and Center for Public Health Development (CPHD) reiterated the need for patient involvement in research to limit the negative impact cancer is having on people’s lives, environments, and the economy. This is aimed at making it possible for women to access breast cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as addressing the psychological distress for most cancer patients.

The advocates are convinced that increased patient involvement is key to the pursuit and implementation of evidence-based solutions and appropriate programs to inform policy makers on sustainable healthcare solutions formulation. For increased engagement between patient advocates and relevant stakeholders, more opportunities for education and engagement need to be created and foundations laid.

Pfizer Oncology Medical Manager for East Africa Dr. Josephine Muiru said, “We have not yet found a way to prevent or cure all cancers, so it is vital that we are listening to people living with these diseases and supporting them with a holistic cancer care approach. At Pfizer we remain committed to providing this support, from working with healthcare professionals to help them to understand the needs of people living with cancer and how to best communicate with them, to leveraging digital technology to empower them to learn about their own disease and treatment options and to improve their quality of life.”

“All over the world, breast cancer patient advocacy initiatives have proven to be a powerful force for the enhancement of cancer research, treatment, management, and care. Patient advocacy also provides peer support for the affected and is key to raising awareness, reducing stigma, educating the public, influencing healthcare policy by bringing the public’s concerns about cancer to policymakers and stakeholders within the health sector. To reduce the impact and limit burden of cancer on the economy, patient advocacy should be encouraged across the country,” said Ms Lucy Njeri Kariuki – Member of the Cancer Café.

Ms Kariuki also says patient advocacy will help counties develop and maintain sustainable healthcare systems geared towards addressing the enormous burden of breast cancer on the country. She says informed approaches to breast cancer research, care and management will more than halve the mortality rate of breast cancer, which stands at 3,107 deaths annually according to the Ministry of Health.

Limited cancer research both in capacity and availability to inform healthcare policy has largely contributed to the lethal prevalence of breast Cancer. According to the 2020 GLOBOCAN Report on Global Cancer Burden, the annual incidence of cancer was reported as 42,116 cases in 2020. In Kenya, cancer is the third leading cause of death and the second leading cause of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) deaths after cardiovascular diseases.

“Thanks to the progress made in healthcare over the recent past, breast cancer and many other cancers are no longer a death sentence. Patient advocacy should, therefore, extend into education programs so that more and more women are shielded from the psychological torture related to healthcare access,” said Mr Evan Mapelu – Director, Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO).

A 2020 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), found that new cases of all types of cancers increased to nearly 20 million worldwide, and there were 10 million cancer deaths.. The global cancer burden is projected to rise by about 50% over the next 20 years mainly due to lifestyle changes across the world. While this calls for increased access to quality healthcare services, a 2018 WHO survey found that at least 1 million Kenyans are pushed into poverty as a result of out-of-the-pocket health expenditures.

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