A International breast cancer symposium was recently held in Kenya to discuss the need for integration and the adaption of recent developments in breast cancer care within low resource countries. This would ensure that patients receive the best care that is appropriate to their economic situation.

The two-day event was organised by The Aga Khan University (AKU) in partnership with: Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUHN), Ministry of Health, National Institutes of Health-Kenya, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, The Union for International Cancer Control, and MD Anderson Cancer Centre. It provided a forum for sharing of global perspectives on the best practices in the management of the disease while acknowledging the limitations faced in resource-poor settings in Sub Saharan Africa.

“As a cancer patient, where you live in the world, should never be the determinant of the quality of care that you receive. The underlying ethos, when we conceptualized this forum, is that low resource settings should not be equivalent to sub-optimal care. We envisage building a regional network that will allow us to constantly challenge ourselves as healthcare practitioners, policy makers, cancer advocates, and care givers. To innovate, iterate and come up with region specific, resource and culturally appropriate strategies to tackle cancer care.” Dr Miriam Mutebi, Lecturer and Breast Cancer Surgeon at AKU.

Some of the challenges that were highlighted regarding cancer care and treatment in the Sub Saharan Africa region include: limited availability of breast conservation therapies, inadequate access to drugs, few oncology specialists and support of harmful sociocultural beliefs and practices. Efforts to address these challenges include local, regional and international partnerships between oncology centres. Which are instrumental as avenues for deliberation on suitable solutions to these challenges.

The symposium which was a first of its kind in Kenya is planned to be an annual event. This will facilitate addressing the challenges of oncology care and provision of region specific solutions. Additionally, it will provide a platform to gain from the expertise and experience of international, regional and local medics.