A Ministry of Health survey, the ‘Breast Cancer Facility Baseline Assessment Report’, published last week, has revealed that most women found to have breast abnormalities following ultrasound and mammography tests are not referred for diagnosis, or followed up.
The report was based on a survey of 439 health facilities in Kenya, mainly health centres and Level 4 hospitals and the aim was to identify gaps in breast cancer management.
Breast cancer diagnoses come too late for Kenyan women
The study found that the vast majority of the 6,799 breast cancer cases in Kenya each year are diagnosed too late resulting in most of the women concerned not surviving the five years following.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Kenya and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Over 3,000 Kenyan women die of breast cancer every year.
The majority of abnormal findings are not cancerous but immediate referral sharply reduces the mortality rate in women who do have breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment in Kenya, scuttled by little follow-up
The Ministry of Health report says, “Only 27 per cent of facilities offered follow-up after an abnormal breast examination with either or both ultrasound and mammograms while 21 per cent of these facilities linked patients with abnormal image results with further management.”
As reported in The Star, Dr Mary Nyangasi, head of the National Cancer Control Programme, said that most hospitals have no capacity to diagnose cancer.
“Very few facilities in the country, we would say about 10 country referrals, are able to offer some form of cancer diagnosis”, Dr Nyangasi said.
The Ministry of Health has now launched a cancer control strategic plan to build capacity and scale up cancer diagnosis across all 47 counties in Kenya.