Cancer advocacy groups are calling for more patient involvement in research and treatment in the country. It is a serious condition where cells divide and grow endlessly in certain parts of the body and consume resources from the rest of the body. As of 2018, there were about 48,000 new cases yearly, with 33,000 cancer-related deaths annually. There was a 45% increase in cancer cases from 2012. As of 2020, cancer was the second-leading cause of noncommunicable disease (NCD) deaths.
The risk of death increases depending on the type of cancer and its stage. It is also more prevalent when there are more risk factors. These are lifestyle habits such as smoking. There is also a higher chance of developing cancer if your family has had a specific type of cancer. Healthcare providers often advise on how best to prevent cancer. They also provide treatment but rarely are patients consulted through treatment or research.
Interactions between patients and providers, health systems, and care
Increased patient involvement in designing research and treatment programs in Kenya will address challenges in breast cancer care. The existing policies, programs, and delivery approaches need to be reinforced. Representatives from the Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations (KENCO) and Centre for Public Health Development attended a roundtable organized by Pfizer. The panel included Pfizer Oncology Medical Manager for East Africa Dr. Josephine Muiru, Ms Lucy Njeri Kariuki Member of the Cancer Café, and Evan Mapelu, Board Chairman of KENCO. At this panel, the representatives advocated for more patient involvement to make it easier for patients to access breast cancer diagnosis and treatment better and provide psychological support for those undergoing treatment.
Pfizer collaborates with patients, their advocates, and caregivers to ensure the patient perspective is applied to drug development, the use of medications, and vaccines. This helps the manufacturer deliver needed breakthroughs. It also paves the way to remove barriers to providing equitable care
Allowing more patients to get involved will increase the implementation of evidence-based solutions and programs for policymakers to create sustainable treatment programs. Patient advocates, and stakeholders need to create more opportunities for education and engagement for better foundations to be laid.
Why patients need to be consulted
Due to the lack of a cure-all, it’s important to consult people living with chronic conditions to provide holistic support. Healthcare providers can learn to communicate better with patients, leveraging digital technology to empower patients to be more knowledgeable about cancer and treatment options and improving quality of life.
Patients’ voices are lacking in treatment. County-level hospitals sometimes lack the equipment to serve patients, and when they are transferred to referral hospitals, the wait times are long. Sometimes hospitals lack personnel. Cultural taboos make it difficult for patients to get treatment early enough. Some patients can’t talk about their breasts, prostates, cervix, and other organs considered immoral to talk about.
Patient advocacy also needs to involve more survivors. Community awareness is dominated by scientists and doctors who may lack the nuances of remote communities, and they find it hard to relate to the complicated jargon associated with scientific education. Involving survivors of specific conditions helps patients better understand cancer and what to look for.
Breast cancer patient advocacy has enhanced global research, treatment, management, and care. Advocacy also provides peer support for patients. This helps generate more public awareness, reduce stigma, and bring patients’ concerns to the forefront of policymakers’ decision-making. This reduces the impact and burden of cancer care on the economy. There needs to be more focus on patient advocacy in the country. Policymakers must also include patients and survivors when creating treatment, care, and rehabilitation programs.
What more can be done
Patients use the National Hospital Insurance Fund to seek treatment. However, it doesn’t always fully cover early diagnostics and screenings. Helping patients afford early diagnostics will reduce the cost of treatment because early-stage treatment is more affordable. Using community health workers for chronic conditions can also help bridge the gap in patient advocacy and increase the survivor-to-doctor ratio of cancer. Better funding for all-level hospitals will enable the hospitals to have the personnel and equipment to handle a higher volume of patients and increase survival rates.
It also helps counties develop healthcare systems to reduce the mortality rate of breast cancer. The Ministry of Health also stated 3107 deaths occur annually from the condition. Limited research has contributed to the country’s fatality rates of breast cancer. It is the third leading cause of death in the country and the second leading cause of NCD deaths after heart disease.
Thankfully, progress in research and healthcare has reduced the fatality rates of cancer. Patient advocacy should aim to increase education programs to enable patients to avoid psychological distress when they seek healthcare. In addition, there are over 20 million new cancer cases globally and 10 million deaths. Due to lifestyle changes, the global burden will increase by over 50% over the next two decades. This also leads to demands for increased access to quality healthcare. Over a million people in Kenya have been impoverished due to health expenditures. This shows the urgency of increasing patient advocacy to reduce the all-around burden of cancer care.
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