Kenya has acquired an advanced cancer treatment machine called CyberKnife, the second one in Africa after that owned by Egypt.
It is used in the treatment of cancer of the brain, breast, prostate, spinal, neck, liver and others; and cost cost $3 million to $5 million for usage.
As a primary treatment Cyberknife can achieve a local control of nearly 90% in patients with a median follow up of 18 months. Radicular pain has been relieved in 25–85% of patients and neurological deficits improved to a lesser degree.
The technology conducts non-invasive treatment for cancerous and non-cancerous tumours and other conditions where radiation therapy is indicated.
The machine is estimated to cost between $3 million to $5 million (Sh345 million to 500 million).
Its unique robotic design keeps the radiation on target even while the tumour moves. It can be used as an alternative to surgery or for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumours.
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CyberKnife treatments are typically performed in one to five sessions.
The machine verifies the exact tumour position then adjusts the robot to precisely target it.
Health experts say the machine will go a long way in treating complicated and advanced cases of cancer.
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Prof Olive Mugenda told the Star that the machine is also used for radiotherapy but is very specialised and will be able to get to some organs, which are unreachable with the other machines.
“It is a machine that can turn 360 degrees and get to the corners that other machines cannot,” she said.
Mugenda is the chairperson of Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital board. The hospital hosts the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre.
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The Ministry of Health has said a number of cancer-related deaths in the country are as a result of infrastructural and resource limitations.
The KUTRRH boasts of two PET/CTs at its dedicated cancer centre for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Since the centre was opened to the public in January, it has been able to attend to more than 400 patients. It attends to at least 20 patients daily.
Mugenda said they have not encountered any major challenges with the machines except for normal maintenance.
“Generally we are doing okay, the patients are happy. Of course machines are machines they will break down occasionally so we get people to repair,” Mugenda said.
Dr Harish Nagaraj, a nuclear medicine physician at the hospital said the machine will be a game changer in the treatment of cancer.
“The CyberKnife is the latest and only few countable places in the world have it,” he said.
Nagaraj said the machine will lead to inbound medical tourism and patients will start coming to Kenya instead of going to South Africa or India.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said a number of deaths in the country related to cancer are as a result of infrastructural and resource limitation in the health sector.
Many perish because their cancers are diagnosed too late.
Health data show cancer is the third leading cause of death in Kenya after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.
The machine is expected to arrive in the country in the next few weeks.