More women than men seek cancer treatment- Study

Oncologist Catherine Nyongesa Watta going through an X-ray film. [Willis Awandu/Standard]
Six out of every 10 cancer patients treated at Kenyatta National Hospital are female, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Economics last month, shows out of the 412 reviewed cancer cases in 2016, 63 per cent were women.

The findings were consistent with previous data at the same facility. The KNH Registry (2014-2016) reported that more females than males were undergoing cancer treatment.

“These numbers are quite interesting especially considering that official census figures show the population ratio between men and women is 50:50,” says Catherine Nyongesa, the lead oncologist at Texas Cancer Centre.

Coincidentally, a similar ratio exists among patients treated at the centre in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In the three years, records show, Texas Cancer Centre treated 6,430 patients.

Cancer situation

“Out of these, 63 per cent were females,” says Dr Nyongesa.

The numbers could therefore be representative of the Kenyan cancer situation.

Nyongesa said several factors could be contributing to this state of affairs.

“It could have something to do with health-seeking behaviour as women are more likely to seek treatment than men.”

KNH analysts corroborated Nyongesa’s view that the numbers could be attributed to the health seeking behaviour of women.

The report also suggests that higher prevalence of obesity among women has contributed.

The report says women are more likely to use hormonal contraceptives which can promote hormone-dependent cancers although studies on their role remain conflicting.

Cancer, unlike an infectious diseases, is largely unexplainable, says Dr Nyongesa.

She says: “There’s no particular cause of cancer. It may start as a result of one factor or a confluence of factors.”

“Smoking, alcoholism, obesity, fatty and sugary diets, overexposure to sunlight, infection with Human Papilloma Virus and lack of exercise may cause cancer,” says Nyongesa.

The 2014 Kenya Demographics Health Survey shows women are mainly affected by breast and cervical cancers, while prostate and oesophageal cancers are common among men.

In 2012, there were about 41,000 new cancer case in Kenya, with 28,453 deaths, making cancer the third highest killer after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.

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cancer patientsJournal of Medical Economicscancer treatmentcancer prevalence