By Mary Hearty

In an effort to make breast cancer treatment more accessible and affordable to patients in Kenya, the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital (KUTRRH) has launched a Comprehensive Breast Care Centre.

The Centre which seeks to intensify screening, diagnostics, and treatment for breast cancer and other conditions, has been set up through a partnership between Roche, National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), and the Ministry of Health.

As part of the agreement, the launch marked the beginning of the Herceptin SC national access program, which provides breast cancer treatment to NHIF members without co-payment at public hospitals.

This now enables Kenyans with breast cancer, particularly women, to receive treatment at public hospitals without out-of-pocket payments, hence relieving them of the financial burden and ensuring they have access to a standard of care treatment.

The services at the Centre include breast health education, clinical breast examination, mammograms, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, biopsy, histopathology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), staging CT scans/PET scans, and specialist consultations, among others.

With the Centre currently serving an average of 20 patients daily, the number is anticipated to grow to about 50 patients daily in the coming weeks.

Speaking at the event at KUTRRH to commemorate the launch of the Comprehensive Breast Care Centre and the implementation of the joint memorandum of understanding(MoU) between the partners, Health Principal Secretary, Susan Mochache noted that the Ministry of Health is continuing its endeavors to raise awareness on breast cancer and has made tremendous efforts in the prevention and control of cancer nationally.

“We seek to comprehensively address cancer control through the systematic implementation of evidence-based interventions for prevention, screening, timely diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative care, financing, monitoring, and research,” she noted.

In addition, Mochache highlighted that a lot has been achieved through effective collaborations to make cancer management services more widely available, by expanding infrastructure and providing training opportunities in the field of oncology and allied professions.

Eleven regional cancer Centres (Nakuru, Meru, Nyeri, Embu, Garissa, Bomet, Machakos, Coast, Kakamega, Kisumu, Makueni) are currently operational, providing chemotherapy and surgical services across the country.

In the remarks read on her behalf, KUTTRH Board Chairperson, Prof. Olive Mugenda noted that the Board will continue guiding the hospital’s management so that it can invest in state-of-the-art equipment and a dedicated team of specialists living up to the Centre’s ideals of providing holistic patient-centered breast care services.

The KUTRRH CEO, Ahmed Dagane noted that the newly launched Comprehensive Breast Care Centre will contribute immensely to the fight against cancer through early regular screening, diagnosis, and treatment to improve outcomes and survivorship. This will be in addition to providing much-needed evidence-based care through research.

Frank Loeffler, General Manager Roche East Africa, said: “We are proud of our partnership with the Ministry of Health and NHIF, and our work to address the multiple barriers to care and treatment that cancer patients face in Kenya, including financial barriers. This partnership reinforces our commitment to ensuring everyone in Kenya, and everyone in Africa can access the treatment they need, no matter where they live and regardless of their financial status. Roche stands ready to work together with partners to holistically strengthen health ecosystems and build resilience for the future.”

Through this partnership, Roche will continue the company’s longstanding work to strengthen the diagnostic ecosystem for breast cancer screening and early diagnosis of patients, as well as improve the referral pathways to treatment centres. In addition to supplying Herceptin SC to public hospitals at a negotiated price, Roche will also support capacity building and training of NHIF and Ministry of Health employees on health data management, health economics, as well as pricing and reimbursement approaches.

The Ambassador of Switzerland, H. E. Amb. Valentin Zellweger, who also attended the launch said: “This MoU is a milestone towards universal healthcare coverage (UHC) for women with breast cancer. It is also an example of how the public and the private sector can work together to improve access to medical products and social protection mechanisms.”

Breast Cancer is the most diagnosed cancer and the cause of the most cancer-related deaths in women globally. In Kenya, Cancer is the third leading cause of death, with 6,000 breast cancer diagnoses and 2,500 deaths annually. Early detection of breast cancer, combined with effective and early treatment options, are critical to reducing the mortality rate of breast cancer patients.

This partnership is part of a concerted effort to eliminate the barriers to cancer care in Kenya, achievable through integration with national UHC initiatives.