The future of cancer research and treatment should involve patients, according to Cancer Advocacy Groups.
Representatives from the Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO), and the 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 policymakers 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.”
According to Ms Lucy Njeri Kariuki – Member of the Cancer Café, 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.
“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,” says Kariuki.
Limited cancer research both in capacity and availability to inform healthcare policy has largely contributed to the high 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.
Patient advocacy provides peer support for those affected by cancer and is key to raising awareness, reducing stigma, educating the public, and 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 the burden of cancer on the economy, patient advocacy should be encouraged across the country.
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.