A quick look at the history books mirrors an African continent stung with the plaque of tropical diseases. Malaria, measles, chicken pox and polio were some of the dreadful diseases that sent colonial masters into thinking mode before setting foot in Africa.
Nonetheless, inventions after another rendered them curable but such did not halt the proliferation of even more lethal diseases, like cancer.
While malaria can now be suppressed through administration of curative drugs, and mitigation measures like sleeping under treated mosquito nets; cancers when detected at advanced stage have proven hard to remedy.
A 2017 research study conducted by BIO Ventures for Global Health, titled “Africa’s Emerging Cancer Crisis: A Call to Action” paints a gloomy picture on the continued rise of cancer as leading global killer. This study says that cancer kills 60% in Africa more than malaria, and that by the year 2030, 70% of deaths will result from cancers.
Experts and stakeholders in the fight against cancer have attributed the swelling number of deaths to late diagnosis and gaps that exist in the awareness campaigns.
While talking to the Standard on September 16, 2015, during the launch of cancer awareness in Nairobi, Kenya Cancer Association Ann Korir described the challenges causing deaths as follows:
“Why are people dying of cancer. Two key things: late diagnosis and inadequate treatment. If cancer is diagnosed early it is treatable and the survival rate is high. Unfortunately, today in Kenya and most African countries, cancer is being diagnosed very late when treatment is less effective, “said Korir.
Lack of awareness
The begging questions worth asking is: Are people still clueless of cancer symptoms?
In August 8, 2018, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore opened up on his battle with leukemia- cancer of the blood.
Mr Collymore gave a recollection of his health status in Citizen TV interview with host Jeff Koinange opening pages about his diagnosis.
For Collymore, it all begun like a flu and soon turned into a monstrous life scare.
“I had been feeling unwell for some time. I noticed a strange thing…I noticed a pain in the bones of my shin, which is not something you experience unless you kick something hard,” he said.
He said that being diagnosed with leukemia was not a big deal. But it’s earlier diagnosis helped its mitigation hence saved his life.
Collymore’s symptoms are synonymous to the ones which were experienced by Dennis Omondi, Weru TV journalist who succumbed to leukemia in August 2018.
While talking to the Standard before his death, Omondi revealed that he was treated for normal flu at earlier stages. His diagnosis came late and it only took 7 months for the disease to down him.
One of the most recent victims to be unearthed by the Standard is Kibira MP Ken Okoth who conceded the fight to be cancer free, but just said that he is committed to containing it.
Okoth, who said he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer said that he was treated for ulcer symptoms like abdominal pains earlier. His diagnosis came at advanced stage subjecting him to doom.
He said: “I will be using chemotherapy tablets that I can take every morning. Because my disease was discovered at a very advanced stage; it cannot be cured. It can only be managed.”
According online health website Mayo Clinic.com, there are no standard cancer symptoms which apply since cancers manifest themselves in various ways.
And for this, cancer diagnosis takes stages. It reveals that the first stage which is the physical examination should give a hint of what possible problem could be, before laboratory test, imaging test scan and biopsy. Depending on the problem, whether swelling, flu, stomach ache, pains or headache; prior examination is highly encouraged.
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