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Importance of Early Diagnosis in Breast Cancer Management in Kenya

Breast Cancer is the leading type of cancer incidence in Kenya accounting for 16.1% of all cancers and is the second leading cause of death in the country.

Breast Cancer is the leading type of cancer incidence in Kenya accounting for 16.1% of all cancers and is the second leading cause of death in the country.

PHOTO | Klaus Nielsen

In response to the growing breast cancer burden in Kenya, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has emphasized the need for early detection in the management of the disease.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), Breast Cancer is the leading type of cancer incidence in Kenya accounting for 16.1% of all cancers and is the second leading cause of death in the country.

Dr Kodjo Soroh, Medical Director East & Anglo West Africa at Pfizer, commented, “At Pfizer, we have a long history in oncology research and development, including a pivotal role in scientific breakthroughs and revolutionary medicines that will create a healthier world for everyone. Our current focus remains on innovating and improving oncology therapies to potentially cure non-communicable diseases like cancer.”

“The advantages of early detection of cancer cannot be overemphasized. We must step up efforts to drive regular medical check-ups to facilitate early detection,” Dr Soroh added.

Data from the Kenya National Cancer Registry 2014-2019 shows that 7 out of 10 cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages despite early detection, timely diagnosis and effective treatment of early-stage tumours being the cornerstone of breast cancer control to improve survival rates.

Additionally, only 14% of women in Kenya have had a clinical breast examination and 25% have performed a self-breast examination, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey.

“Unless urgent action is taken to improve breast cancer screening and early diagnosis, breast cancer will compound Kenya’s disease burden, increase poverty and gender inequalities as well as reverse current gains against maternal mortality,” Dr Angela McLigeyo, a Medical Oncologist, said during a media roundtable hosted by Pfizer in Kenya.

The National Cancer Treatment Protocols 2019 recommend that all women found to have suspicious breast lesions should undergo a triple assessment that involves clinical examination preferably by an experienced clinician or breast surgeon, bilateral breast imaging and Core biopsy.

“In breast cancer diagnosis, timeliness of the service to avoid excessive delay, availability of diagnostic imaging studies of the breast and axilla, staging studies to detect metastatic disease and tissue sampling methods are important,” Dr Njoki Njiraini, a clinical radiation oncologist said.

The Government of Kenya has established a Breast cancer screening and Early diagnosis action plan 2021-2025 aimed at ensuring that women with breast cancer are diagnosed in the early stages.

The action plan will be achieved by putting in specific mechanisms to improve uptake of mammography screening in the eligible populations, ensuring that at least 90% of symptomatic women are linked to timely further evaluation and management within 60 days from their first encounter with a healthcare worker.

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