Cancer Control: A Case for Action
In 2008, approximately 8 million cancer deaths were reported in Africa. In September 2015, a Nation Newsplex report, put the annual growth rate of cancer at six percent – double the annual population growth rate in Kenya.
These aren’t just statistics on a page, they represent people we know and care about. They are our children, our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers. Sadly, this isn’t a complete picture as many more cancer cases in rural and marginalized areas often go unreported.
At the moment. Kenya is three months into an election year and as the usual circus of empty rhetoric prevails, the elephant in the room seems to be our current health crisis. As we watch, a large number of Kenyans continue to be locked out of the only treatment option available to them.
The fact that cancer treatment is expensive, and out of reach to many is well known. Families have gone deep into debt trying to settle medical bills for loved ones affected by the disease. Meanwhile, a bill tabled in Parliament earlier in the year seeking to provide free treatment has gone oddly quiet.
The question then becomes, is enough being done about the cancer burden in Kenya?
The painful truth is that public health mechanisms are still woefully underequipped. To put things into perspective, let’s compare cancer control to current HIV management techniques in the country.
For one, public awareness on HIV/AIDS has been more widespread even in the grassroots thanks to spirited campaigns by the government in partnership with various independent bodies. Everything from billboards, to newspaper ads and TV commercials have been utilized in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The same can barely be said of cancer. Current statistics show that breast and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer found in Kenyan men and women respectively. While both cancers can be detected earlier through screening and self-examinations, most people still don’t know how to conduct a basic self-check.
So where are the grassroots campaigns looking to spread this message to the public? The answer is that most efforts are localized to specific areas, especially within urban settings. One could of course argue that as most health centers are found within towns,