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Uncovering the Multifaceted Reasons Behind the Growing Medical Tourism for Cancer Treatment

Medical tourism and cancer Therapy
Photo by national cancer institute on Unsplash

With the rising cost of medical care, more and more people are turning to medical tourism for their healthcare needs. But what are the risks associated with traveling abroad for medical treatments? What factors influence the choice of a cancer treatment center abroad or locally? This blog explores the patient-related factors that play a role in a patient's decision to seek treatment abroad or locally. We will discuss the potential benefits and risks involved in medical tourism and present the findings of a study on patient-related factors associated with choosing a cancer treatment center in Kenya.

A case-control study published in PLoS One has examined the cost of medical tourism for cancer patients in Kenya. The study randomly sampled 2022 cancer patients, with cases recruited from the Ministry of Health and controls from Kenyatta National Hospital and Texas Cancer Center. Data was collected and analyzed using SPSS Software Version 21. Descriptive statistics and bivariate and multiple logistic regression analysis were carried out, with a level of significance set at 5%. The study concluded that the cost of treatment abroad is higher than that of receiving initial treatment within Kenya, underscoring the economic benefits of staying local for cancer care. This research provides valuable insights for those considering medical tourism for cancer treatment, as the cost savings of remaining in Kenya should be considered.

A survey of 254 respondents revealed that 69.5% had sought cancer treatment in Kenya and 31.5% in India. Cost-effectiveness was a significant factor for 73% of all respondents. The study determined that those seeking treatment in India were more likely to have a monthly income of over US$ 250. For every additional month from the point of disclosure to patients, the likelihood of seeking treatment in India increased by 1.16 times. Additionally, it was found that physician advice (Odds Ratio (OR) 66; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 7.9–552.9), advice from friends and family (OR 42; 95% CI 7.07–248.6), and the perception of a better quality of care (OR 22.5; 95% CI 2.2–230.6) were independent predictors for medical tourism to India for cancer treatment. This research is essential in informing public discussion on the benefits and risks associated with medical tourism for cancer treatment.

In conclusion, India is potentially becoming a leader in the global cancer healthcare market. However, Kenya can reverse its out-ward bound medical tourism. This can be achieved by strengthening the health system, sensitizing the medical fraternity and general public, and addressing the multifactorial reasons why patients with cancer seek treatment in India. With everyone's collective efforts, Kenya can create a world-class cancer healthcare system that will benefit all its citizens.


Wangai, Mary W et al. “Understanding and comparing the medical tourism cancer patient with the locally managed patient: A case-control study.” PloS one vol. 17,9 e0273162. 21 Sep. 2022, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0273162


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