Everyone in the healthcare field has a role to play in palliative care.

This was the message to health care providers attending the Kenya Medical Association Scientific Symposium on Oncology held at the Kenya International Conference Center last Friday.

Speaking during the symposium, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA)’s Coordinator for Pain Relief Dr Esther Muinga said that 80% of patients with life limiting illnesses present with moderate to severe pain while 50% of patients with HIV present with the same.

Dr Muinga said that management of this pain is crucial for comfort of these patients with life threatening illnesses.

She indicated that more than 30% of cancer can be prevented by avoiding risk factors like smoking and alcoholism.

Dr Muinga added that there is a challenge in selling the concept of palliative care to hospital administrations but progress has been made with support from the Ministry of Health.

She challenged the medical practitioners to give support to patients in need of palliative care since over 40 centers in which they practice have a palliative care service unit.

The symposium run concurrently with a free two day basic screening for cancer at the Kenya International Conference Center (KICC) grounds where hundreds of city dwellers presented themselves for the exercise.

Among the cancers screened were breast and prostate with most attendees undertaking the Body Mass Index test.

Most of those screened said they came to capitalize on the free screening and know their cancer status because they have heard that it is a killer disease and it is costly to treat if diagnosed late.

They urged the government to make screening available in the rural areas since those people have a little understanding of what cancer is and take such illnesses to be acts of witchcraft.

The screening exercise was part on the ongoing campaign by KMA dubbed ‘Bila Cancer Society’ (a society without cancer) aimed at creating awareness about cancer using activities scheduled across the year.

Partners on board for the screening event were Aga Khan University Hospital, Karen Hospital, The Beacon of Hope Clinic as well as Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.