In 2019 Kenyans declared cancer a menace. Almost every TV station broke the news that Kenya was a ‘cancer nation’ because of the increased number of deaths and incidents related to cancer. This was felt on both ends of the economic spectrum debunking earlier notions that cancer was a disease for the wealthy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Cancer as a large group of diseases; that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs. Cancer arises from one single cell following abnormal changes in the cell’s genetic material and these genetic changes affect the mechanism that regulates normal cell growth and death leading to uncontrolled cell growth. Most cancers form a tumour but some like leukaemia do not.
With the understanding of what cancer is, it is important to get to know what the risk factors are. According to the Kenya National Cancer Control Strategy of 2011-2016, the risk factors can be placed in four major categories: behavioural, biological, environmental and genetics. Behavioural is attributed with poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcoholism and an unhealthy diet. Biological risk factors touch on sex and age especially in prostate cancer. In addition to that, exposure to carcinogenic material in the workplace or home environment also poses a risk to cancer
According to WHO’s 2018 report, cancer is recorded as the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths or one in six deaths. The report further states that lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer are the most common types of cancer in men. In women breast, colorectal, lung, cervical and thyroid cancer are the most common.
In Kenya, cancer is the third leading cause of death and second among Non-Communicable Diseases accounting for 7% of overall mortality rate every year. The risk of getting cancer before 75 years is 14% whereas the risk of dying of cancer is estimated at 12%. In addition, about 80% of the reported cases of cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages when very little can be achieved in terms of curative treatment (Kenya National Cancer Control Strategy 2011-2016).
Minimal success has been recorded in the cancer curative treatments largely due to the low awareness of cancer signs and symptoms, inadequate screening services, inadequate diagnostic facilities, and poorly structured referral hospitals. Kenya has few cancer specialists and the cost of treatment is high for the ‘common mwananchi’ to afford.
However, at least 40% of cancers are preventable by modifying or avoiding key risk factors. 30% of treatable cancers can be cured if detected early (Kenya National Cancer Control Strategy 2011-2016). The intervention, therefore, lies in early detection where one ought to be vigilant for the signs and symptoms that may indicate the disease.
In the event you experience any lump, discharge or pain visit a nearby health facility for sound diagnosis. Men above the age of 50 should do a PSA check. Strive to maintain a healthy weight, eat highly nutritious meals, engage in physically activities and reduce intake or avoid alcohol and substance abuse.
The message from us to you is to be woke! Understand your body, notice any abnormal changes and maintain a healthy lifestyle. While at it, we encourage you to try our herbal infusions that are packed with antioxidants that will help in boosting your immune system.
How are you getting involved in this fight against cancer?