Women walk by a dispensary after a health meeting in Kitui South, Kenya. (Photo credit: Luis Tato/Getty Images for CMMB 2022)

CMMB Launches a Breast and Cervical Cancer Project in Kitui County

NAIROBI, Kenya (Jan. 11, 2023) – The Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) announced today that they have launched a cancer care project in South and Kitui Central sub-counties to address gaps in cancer and palliative care for breast and cervical cancer patients. The project is funded through a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.

As part of the project, a full-service cancer care unit will be set up at the Kitui County Referral Hospital, where women and girls of reproductive age can access pre-cancer screenings and chemotherapy , as well as other cancer care and palliative care services. In preparation for the unit’s opening, CMMB is providing training to healthcare workers, equipping the unit, and offering sensitization on cancer screening services.

The project will be jointly implemented in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Kenya as a technical partner through the accreditation processes, CMMB as the implementing agency and the Kitui County Government as the recipient of the support.

High rates of cervical cancer; late diagnosis

In Kenya, breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer, and while cervical cancer is easily detectable and curable in the early stages, only 16.4% of women aged 30–49 years have ever been screened. In Kitui County, cervical cancer accounts for nearly a quarter of all cancer cases among women. Women from low socio-economic backgrounds and underserved areas are unable to access early detection and diagnosis, and advanced cancer care. Vaccination against HPV, and screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions are cost-effective ways to prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage and treated promptly.*

“A late diagnosis—combined with the lack of and uneven distribution of cancer diagnosis and treatment facilities, personnel, and equipment—highlights the urgent need for this project in Kitui South and Central sub-counties,” said Dr. Alfred Karagu,CEO of the National Cancer Institute of Kenya.

An initial CMMB Cervical Cancer Care project launched last year, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the National Cancer Institute of Kenya, revealed the need for a full-service cancer care unit at the Kitui County Referral Hospital to serve 26,000 women and girls of reproductive age in surrounding communities.

“The nearby cancer care unit in Kitui town will ease the travel burden and costs for women in both sub-counties,” said Jesse Kihuha, CMMB Kenya CHAMPS program manager. “They will no longer need to travel over 20 hours round-trip to Nairobi to access chemotherapy treatment and other cancer care services.”

“We are fortunate to have a great partnership with Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation which is saving women’s lives,” said Dr. James Kisia, CMMB Kenya country director. “The partnership is the perfect example of Africa’s three-legged stool—a private-sector partner, the government, plus a non-governmental organization joining forces to create sustainable change in communities everywhere.”

For over 20 years, CMMB Kenya has saved lives by promoting healthy futures for families. Its integrated rural health programs address breast and cervical cancers, HIV/AIDs, malaria, maternal and child health and TB. In addition, CMMB’s work contributes to strengthening Kenyan health systems and staff skills.


Catholic Medical Mission Board: CMMB provides long-term medical and development aid to communities affected by poverty and unequal access to healthcare. Focusing on women’s and children’s health, we deliver sustainable health services in Haiti, Kenya, Peru, South Sudan, and Zambia. For over a century, we have worked to strengthen and support communities through

healthcare programs and initiatives, the placement of volunteers, and the distribution of medicines and medical supplies. Over the last 10 years, CMMB’s Medical Donations Program has distributed more than $5 billion worth of medicines and medical supplies to 83 countries across the globe.

Editor’s Note: *In Kenya, breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer with approximately 6,799 (16.1%) new cases, causing 11.5% of all cancer deaths in 2020. It accounts for 23% of cancerous diseases that affect women. Every year, 5,236 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 3,211 die from the disease. Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in Kenya and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.


[1] Cancer HPV center 2002

[1] Community-Engaged Approaches to Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Scoping Review Frontiers in Global Women’s Health.

[1] National-Cancer-Screening-Guidelines-2018

[1] Global Cancer Statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries

[1] Current Perspectives in Human Papillomavirus; DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.81581

[1] American Cancer Society: Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

[1] Kitui County Cancer Registry 2021