Kenya: Rollout of Scan Services to Boost Early Cancer Diagnosis

13 February 2019

Nairobi — Cancer patients will be able to get PET/CT scan services in Kenya after the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Nairobi began operations two weeks ago.

The Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scanner and Cyclotron is the first such scanner in East and Central Africa and it will enable physicians to study the body in extraordinary detail, allowing them to diagnose diseases early and plan the most effective course of treatment.

Professor Sudhir Vinayak, Chair, Department of Radiology at Aga Khan University Hospital said the scan will enable early detection of cancer as well as help those with the disease know the progress of their treatment.

"The benefits of the PET/CT is that it picks up the disease early, it is more accurate in staging most cancers but not all, it can tell you the extent of the disease and how far it has spread," Professor Vinayak stated.

Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Specialist Samuel Nguku noted that information generated from PET/CT scans will enable oncologists to provide better treatment and follow up plans for cancer patients.

"A PET/CT scan is an imaging test that is used to diagnose diseases, plan treatment, to find out how a condition is progressing and to see how effective treatment is on the disease. This combined technology will change diagnostic medicine in the region," Nguku said.

"The scan can be used to follow up on cancer for instance if the patient has had chemo or radiotherapy treatment and you want to see whether the cancer is responding then the PET/CT will detect reduction in cancer cells early compared to CT or MRI imaging."

Patients can use their National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cards to make payment for the scan services after the body committed to cover the full cost of PET/CT services at the Aga Khan University Hospital, a reprieve for cancer patients, who are often burdened by the high cost of treatment.

The arrival of the scanner means patients will no longer have to incur the travel costs associated with leaving the region to access this advanced technology in treatment.

"Patients will no longer have to travel to India or abroad to get this service as it will be available right here in Nairobi. The technology was acquired at an approximate cost of $ 6 million equivalent to Sh600mn and will revolutionize diagnostics and treatment in the region," noted Nguku.

While an MRI and CT scan shows how a particular part of the body looks, a PET/CT scan can reveal how it is functioning. This is an important aspect for cardiologists and cardiac surgeons too as it enable them to detect which parts of the heart have been damaged or scarred. It can also help identify blood and oxygen circulation problems in the heart.

PET/CT scan technology is also critical in neurosciences especially in the diagnosis of neurological conditions such as dementia and epilepsy.

"Information generated from PET/CT scans enables oncologists to make better treatment and follow up plans for cancer patients. In certain cancer situations, this information is critical in making decisions regarding treatment options including surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy," explained Dr Asim Jamal, Section Head Medical Oncology at AKUH.

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