Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he received report from the National Cancer Taskforce at his Afya House office.

The National Cancer Task Force wants the government to remove tax on cancer treatment products.

The task force said in their report that products that are essential in cancer treatment are not covered under the National Health Insurance Fund, hindering access to quality healthcare and treatment outcomes.

Cancer patients and caregivers who appeared before the task force decried high cost of cancer rehabilitative products such as colostomy and urostomy supplies.

They include stoma bags, base plates, pouches, ostomy cream, powder, barrier ring, adhesive strips, prosthesis and crutches.

The Mary Nyangasi-led task force has also raised concern over frequent stock outs of essential cancer medicines in the country, which compromises care and treatment outcomes.

According to the report handed over to the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, access to cancer medicines and health products is often compromised by limited availability, affordability and accessibility.

“There are challenges in access and affordability of treatment assistive devices such as central and peripheral lines such as chemoports for chemotherapy use and colostomy bags among other rehabilitative items,” the report says.

“There are frequent stock outs of the anticancer drugs both at Kemsa and at health facilities. Counselling and psychosocial support services like occupational therapy, nutrition and rehabilitation for patients are inadequate,” it adds.

The report says the high cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment has led to high out of pocket expenditure among households.

According to the report, even though 80 per cent of all cancer patients globally will require a surgical procedure and a third will require more than one procedure, most of the surgical oncology procedures locally are done by general surgeons.

The report further says the training of surgical oncologists has lagged behind other specialties.

“There are very few breast cancer surgeons, colorectal, prostate and oesophageal cancers and all trained abroad although there is evidence that investment in training these surgical cadres have a high return on investment,” the report says.

The Ministry of Health appointed a National Cancer Taskforce on April 28 last year, comprising a diverse group of experts in the cancer sector.

The taskforce was given the responsibility of reviewing the current cancer situation, and advice the ministry on how to address cancer prevention and control governance, coordination and service delivery in the country.

Cancer is the third leading cause of death both globally and in Kenya, and the second leading cause of non-communicable diseases deaths after cardiovascular diseases.

Ministry data estimates the annual incidence of cancer at 42,116 in 2020, down from 47,887 cases in 2018. The annual mortality is at 27,092 in 2020, down from 32,987 in 2018.

Among men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer followed by oesophagus, colorectal, Non-Hodgkins, lymphoma and stomach.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women followed by cervical cancer, oesophagus, colorectal and ovary.

The five top cancers are listed as breast, cervical, prostate, oesophageal and colorectal.

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