In Summary
  • With increased awareness, free screening, early diagnosis and treatment, its impact can reduce significantly.
  • The national budget should allocate adequate resources to recruitment, remuneration and retention of all medical personnel in public facilities.

Cancer not only robs the affected person of their health, but also dignity and resources.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks the killer disease as the second leading cause of death, responsible for more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria combined.

But there is hope: 30-50 percent of cancers are preventable and treatable if detected early.

My own encounter with cancer happened eight years ago. My mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer on May 2, 2010, and, exactly a year later, on May 2, 2011, she passed on.

She was only 51, in her prime with several goals and milestones still unachieved. My mother exhibited no symptoms until it was much too late to save her.

After two surgeries, chemo- and radio therapy, all we could do was give palliative care.

DIAGNOSIS

After a few months of treatment her medical insurance cover ran out. We experienced the high cost of treating the disease locally.

Health ministry data shows it is the third-highest cause of mortality after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. It kills 90 people daily, or seven percent of all deaths yearly, 60 percent of patients under 70.

Sadly, 70-80 percent of cases are diagnosed in the late stages — mainly for lack of awareness, inadequate diagnostic and treatment facilities vis-à-vis the population and high cost of screening for most Kenyans.

With increased awareness, free screening, early diagnosis and treatment, its impact can reduce significantly. If Kenya is serious about reducing the impact and prevalence of cancer, we should adopt a three-pronged approach.

NATIONAL DISASTER

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