CANCER AWARENESS CENTRE OF KENYA

"The Best protection is early Detection"

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Cancer in Kenya

Cancer Killer in Kenya

Cancer cases in Kenya have become rampant and yet many poor people cannot afford chemotherapy. Even for those who can afford, it is eating away their finances and investments. Cancer remains a dreaded word to chat about even among health care professionals. This has made it hard for those suffering from it to get timely support. Breaking news about a cancer diagnosis to a patient makes it even more frightening to those delivering the information. Not to mention the level of stress a family of the cancer patient suffers. Even for medical practitioners, dealing with cancer patients is physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually draining. Physicians also need care encouragement from colleagues, employers and even the society.

 

The cancer situation in Kenya is dire. Some Doctors says that Cancer has become a runaway train and they even handle more than 10 to 20 cases of cancer in a month. It is evident that Breast and Cervical cancer are alarmingly prevalent among women, with prostate, esophagus and stomach cancer being higher among men. Even prominent personalities and politicians have not been spared either. People must be sensitized more than ever before about cancer in order to save lives. Sensitization must be emphasized, especially among the grassroots people that tend to ignore the sickness, some resulting to witchdoctors.

 

Due to the increasing numbers, the support we receive is not sufficient. Therefore we are calling upon other organizations to join with us and support this noble course in cash and in kind where applicable.

 

Cancer cases in Kenya have become rampant and yet many poor people cannot afford chemotherapy. For those who can afford, it is eating away their finances and investments. Some doctors in Kenya feel that government has not invested much in cancer treatment and the cases in the country are rising rapidly.

 

Cancer remains a dreaded word to chat about even among health care professionals. This has made it hard for those suffering from it to get timely support. Breaking news about a cancer diagnosis to a patient makes it even more frightening to those delivering the information. Not to mention the level of stress a family of the cancer patient suffers. Even for medical practitioners, dealing with cancer patients is physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually draining. Physicians also need care and encouragement from colleagues, employers and even the society.

 

Economically, footing chemotherapy bills has supped many a families finances and investments. Chemotherapy is very expensive and yet it is the only hope for those already suffering from cancer. Cancer is threatening many lives and probably the need for us to launch a Fight against Cancer Campaign here in Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Ruaraka as it was with the hunger initiative in the recent past in the country. We could raise money as a nation for cancer drugs or a radiotherapy machine periodically.

 

Almost 50 years after our countrys independence, having only a proposed bill on cancer prevention and control, demonstrates negligence to a situation which should by now be declared a national disaster. The rating is higher than deaths caused by road accidents or HIV and AIDS. Between 2000 and 2006, the Nairobi Cancer Registry recorded 10,484 cases of cancer in both men and women.

 

The cancer situation in Kenya is dire. Some Doctors says that Cancer has become a runaway train and they even handle 10 to 20 cases of cancer in a month. It is evident that many catholic nuns are dying of the cancer of breast; uterus and endometrial problems which he said were the main diseases of the nuns.

Breast and cervical cancer are alarmingly prevalent among women, with prostate, esophagus and stomach cancer being higher among men. As the country marks International Breast Cancer Awareness this October, the war against cancer is yet to be won. It is high time people focused not only on breast cancer but also on other cancer types because people are suffering. The campaigns tend to dwell more on breast cancer than the World Breast Cancer Day marked annually on February 4th.

 

People must be sensitized more than ever before about cancer in order to save lives. Sensitization must be emphasized, especially among the grassroots people that tend to ignore the sickness, some resorting to witchdoctors.

 

Many doctors are associating cancer to lifestyle. Some of the reasons as to why there is a high prevalence of cancer cases as; many sexual partners, early sex debuts, use of contraceptives and staying too long without having a child in the case of women.

 

Among the many types of cancers, the greatest killer of Kenyan women today, is cancer of the cervix according to doctors despite being vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes cancer of the cervix; one can still get it if they indulge in irresponsible sex. However, he notes that even though one qualifies to be vaccinated against HPV virus, there are many other factors that cause cancer of the cervix. HPV virus can be passed from mother to child during delivery. It can also be passed from one spouse to another since it is sexually transmitted. It is important that people are educated about HPV vaccine. But points out that those who qualify for the vaccine are only women who have not been infected with HPV virus. Doctors say most cancers of the cervix can be prevented if women have Pap smear tests regularly.

 

In the 60s and before some cancers were very rare amongst the people of Africa. Today, children are even suffering from the disease. The reason why children are also dying of cancer is because lactating mothers are taking contraceptives that are passed on to children through breast milk.

 

Doctors say that cancer is a disease of the cell. The cells grow out of control and change in the genetic make-up. They look and function differently from the normal ones and can spread to other parts of the body. Some cells in any organ can become abnormal. They cite some of the factors that can predispose one to cancer as smoking, alcohol and chewing harmful substances like miraa, (khat) industrial toxins, obesity, lack of regular exercises and pollution.

Many nutritionists blame poor diet and lifestyle. Lifestyle is one of the major contributors to cancer. We live in a world where technology has taken over everything. We have refrigerators, microwaves and refined foods that have low nutritional value. For instance microwaving food stored in polythene bags produces so many carcinogens that lead to any form of cancer. The accumulations of additives, sugars and fats from preserved food stores toxins in our bodies that pile up and eventually lead to cancer.

 

If a parent introduces a child to junk food they will want junk forever leading him/her to an early grave. Nutrition contributes a lot to brain development and if a child is not given proper nutrition the brain development and learning is very low, Nutrition can never be treated totally if a child does not have good nutrition in the first five years of its life.

 

As the cancer challenge stares us in the face, helplessness and despair roams among low income and poor people. Access to adequate cancer care remains more of a fantasy than reality. With no funds, the poor only option is to go home and wait to die. Availability of cancer screening equipment like Radiotherapy is limited to Kenyatta National Hospital.

 

The clinical management of cancer requires a multidisciplinary team consisting of medical oncologists, surgeons and surgical oncologists, radiotherapists, pathologists, radiologists, oncology nurses, counselors, and palliative care specialists, among others.

 

Undergraduate cancer education programs in Kenya are very short in duration and are held primarily in outpatient clinics that specialize in diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Further specialization in any other field of oncology has to be conducted abroad. Thus, there are very few oncologists in the country. (Currently, there are three medical oncologists, four radiation oncologists, two surgical oncologists, and two gynecologic oncologists for the whole population.) Continuing medical education is available through the Kenya Society of Haematology and Oncology (KESHO), but these services are offered mainly in Nairobi. An integrated, problem based, multidisciplinary clinical cancer management course must be emphasized to enable medical officers to diagnose, manage, or refer the earliest possible cancers seen in the peripheral hospitals.

 

Kenya lacks enough oncologists due to high cost of training. Proper head to toe physical examination with detailed history taking is key to early diagnosis of some childhood cancers. Unfortunately, this basic exercise is being ignored by some medical practitioners. The few trained KNH medical physicians responsible for cancer treatment are overwhelmed by the workload due to the rising number of cancer patients in the country.

 

All of the oncology specialists in Kenya are located in Nairobi, making it almost impossible for the largest number of the population to access their services. Basic radiologic services are generally available; however, computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging scans are few and, again, mainly in Nairobi. Molecular diagnostic facilities are very rare and quite expensive to the majority of patients. The only functional radiotherapy services are also in Nairobi, one in the referral hospital (KNH) and the other in a major private hospital. This leads to a very long waiting period especially in the public hospital of up to three months, causing even previously curable tumors to progress before patients can access treatment.

 

Surgical services are available, but are generally conducted by surgeons whose primary clinical practice is not oncology. Pathology services are poor in the public institutions, with delays in diagnostic reports sometimes stretching to months. The scope of these services is also poor, considering that there are too few pathologists for the population.

 

Although chemotherapy drugs are available, high cost prevents the majority of patients from even beginning treatment. Others are unable to afford the most current regimes. Chemotherapy is administered by general physicians and surgeons as much as 80% of the time, often exposing patients with cancer to preventable risks, side effects, and resistances from use of substandard regimens, and eventually leading to poor response rates. Awareness and availability of palliative services in the country are increasing. These exist mainly as joint services with HIV/AIDS management programs and in private hospices across the country.

 

People have reported being on drugs for months or years over some discomfort or swelling of a part of their body before being diagnosed with cancer. It takes a keen and patient practitioner to thoroughly examine a patient with non obvious symptoms to locate and even take a biopsy to further investigate the problem, Some Hospitals even lack cancer specialists despite availability of a radiotherapy machines. The equipment has also technical problems that have hampered its operations in most hospitals. Discrimination against cancer patients is real; from social places, family and in some health centers. A wound as the one above makes it difficult for people to stay in the same roof with the patient because of unpleasant odour. Using of public means of transport is even unthinkable as commuters are known to get out of public transport vehicles because of odour.

 

The government must revise the medical budget to allocate more funds to build health centers equipped with early detection of cancer machines to fight the silent killer. It should also ensure availability of chemotherapy drugs, pain medication and dressing materials for wounds. A lot of emphasis has been put in diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS due to their immediate devastating effects. Cancer symptoms show at a snails pace and many die without ever knowing they had the disease. The mention of words; so and so was diagnosed with cancer should not be taken as a death sentence. Cancer is preventable contrary to regular belief that once diagnosed with cancer there is nothing that can be done. Medics have proven otherwise. Having routine medical screenings is one way to safeguard ones health and detect early symptoms of cancer development. To avoid people must eat healthy and avoid artificial foods and have frequent medical check-ups. Although, some environmental factors are uncontrollable and many people have fallen victims of the many risks surrounding their environment. The government must invest in treatment of cancer and urgently enact the bill to enhance the welfare of people with cancer and eradicate discrimination against them. Even though a National Cancer Control Strategy was launched in August 2011, passing of the Cancer Prevention and Control Bill remains a priority. It is the only vehicle that will give priority to cancer prevention and control.

 

Recently, a group of doctors, lawyers, politicians and cancer survivors met to discuss the possibility of moving a private members draft legislation. The National Cancer Control and Prevention Bill, if passed, would tackle the disease. The law would also ensure that cancer patients could, in future, easily access affordable screening and arrest the cancer in good time. The problem with cancer, however, is that people dont suffer aches while it progresses until it has reached stage three, where even radical surgery would not make much difference. The policy will give direction in matters of prevention, management and control of the disease. He says the NCCP Bill is ready for presentation for debate in Parliament. If passed into law, the Bill would provide the legal framework within which issues of cancer control would be conducted. The legal framework would also harmonise the availability of drugs and screening guidelines, and aid in mapping the disease countrywide.

 

News & Updates

Latest Events

  • Cancer Awareness and Screening at Madre Teresa Catholic Church on 3rd March 2013
  • Cancer Awareness Talk on 27th October 2012 at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church by Mrs Immaculate Kang'ethe
  • Certificate Awarding to Wairimu- the Marketing Executive of Avenue Health Care at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church Screening on 25th October 2015
  • Planting a memorable tree for Cancer Patients at Kasarani on 25th October 2014 during the Cancer Walk to mark 4 years of Operations
  • World Cancer Day breakfast meeting at Sarova Panafric Hotel on 4th February 2013
  • Candle Lighting at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church on 26th October 2014 in memory of Cancer patients