Health & Fitness

Lack of machines at county hospitals killing cervical cancer patients

Linear accelerator machine used in cancer treatment. PHOTO | FILE |
Linear accelerator machine used in cancer treatment. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Lack of radiotherapy and brachytherapy machines in the counties to treat cervical cancer is contributing to high death rates among women, health officials have said.

They said the kits are expensive and most devolved units cannot afford them unless they receive assistance from the national government or donors.

Dr Elizabeth Ogaja (Kisumu), Maurice Simiyu (Busia), Sarah Omache (Kisii), Olango Onudi (Siaya) and their Homa Bay counterpart Dr Lawrence Koteng, said more women are dying of cancer because they cannot afford treatment.

“Most hospitals in counties can only treat cancer when in its early stages,” Dr Ogaja said, adding that in advanced stages nothing much can be done there.

He said most women with cervical cancer visit hospitals when the disease has progressed and when referred to Kenyatta National Hospital, they opt to sit at home eventually dying due to poverty.

“All we do is surgery when the cancer is detected early, but most patients referred for further treatment in Nairobi die in silence,” Dr Simiyu said.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death among women in Kenya with 4,800 new reported cases every year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Over 2,800 Kenyan women lose their lives annually to the disease.

Dr Koteng said the number of fatalities of cervical cancer patients could be higher since most deaths in rural areas are not documented.

Dr Olunga said more women are not aware of their status and early detection was the best solution.

A study conducted in Kisumu by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that 89 per cent of the sample population knew of cancer in general, but only 15 per cent had heard of cervical cancer.

None of the women in the study knew about the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine which helps prevent the disease.
Besides Kenyatta, radiotherapy is available at private facilities such as Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, MP Shah Hospital at an average cost of Sh10,000 per session.