A recent study in multiple African countries has found that despite significant strides made in detecting, managing and treating breast cancer, the disease is still one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in Kenya.
For example, 2018 GLOBCAN report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that the disease is the leading killer in Kenya—out of the approximately 6000 (5,985) women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, nearly half will die from the disease.
Access Issues Kills in Africa
Findings from the new study showcase the risk women face in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria as a patient’s hope for survival is impacted by delays in diagnosis and treatment, limitations in access to appropriate quality cancer care, and financial burdens associated with receiving care.
The study team included participating hospitals such as Kenyatta National Hospital and Aga Khan University Hospital. The team utilized medical records from six tertiary hospitals spread across the three countries in the study. Access is a major problem as is distance as many patients must travel long distances to access breast cancer medical services in Kenya the study found for example.
The estimated commute to a tertiary cancer center is 398 kilometers. The lack of financial resources is a fundamental challenge as well. Common screening methods are not so common: for example mammograms and/or ultrasounds are sought out less than 45% in the country of Kenya.
In Kenya despite ongoing financial aid for many, patients still had to frequently dig into their own pockets reported Business Daily Africa. In fact, about 32% of patients studied needed to pay for their diagnostic tests entirely out of pocket. Approximately 20% relied solely on personal finances.
The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF)
This government fund, NHIF, was structured to help Kenyans pay for health care. It, in fact, has played a major role in supporting Kenyans but does not meet the full diagnostic treatment costs for all patients.
Majid Twahir, Aga Khan University Hospital