Data collected from 2014 to 2016 by a cancer-only institution, the Texas Cancer Centre (TCC), indicates that Nairobi shoulders the biggest burden of the disease in Kenya since it records the highest number of cases.
The centre on Friday released the data collected from patients in all its three facilities – two in Nairobi and one in Eldoret.
“These numbers show the shape cancer is taking in the Kenyan population,” said Dr Catherine Nyongesa, an oncologist and director at TCC.
Nearly half of the patients who visited our hospitals in 2016 – 47 per cent – were from Nairobi.
“Only one out of every two patients lived outside Nairobi,” said Dr Nyongesa.
Over the three-year period, the number of patients visiting the hospital had steadily increased.
In 2014, TCC treated 718 patients, while in 2015 those treated at its facilities were 2,154. In 2016 the number of patients soared to 3,558.
“There is no doubt that every year cancer afflicts more and more Kenyans. Sadly, we project that in the next 20 years, cancer will be the number one killer in the country,” said Dr Nyongesa.
Currently, cancer ranks third after infectious and cardiovascular diseases among causes of death in Kenya.
Dr Nyongesa blamed the cancer menace to change in lifestyles, lack of awareness on the disease, and environmental factors such as increase in carcinogenic pollutants that make way into food and other consumables.
“Majority of the patients who come to Texas arrive when the disease has progressed to very late stages,” she pointed out.
Most of the patients arrive at the hospital after trying alternatives such as herbal and traditional medicine. “Sadly, some will have tried witchcraft and sorcery, yet, this is cancer,” she noted.
Dr Gladwell Kiarie, an oncologist, said that Kenyan doctors are able to handle cancer cases locally. “There is a belief that treatment abroad is better. But I want Kenyans to know that treatment abroad is only better when it requires equipment that is not available in Kenya,” Dr Kiarie said.
She added that it will take concerted efforts from the public, the government and the medical fraternity for Kenya to deal with cancer.
“Kenyans should know that cancer treatment facilities are available locally. They should come to hospital at the earliest time. If detected and treated early, cancer is not deadly,” said Dr Kiarie.
Cancer, Dr Nyongesa explained, can be caused by viral infections (cervical cancer), bad lifestyle habits like smoking and alcoholism (lung cancer), a dirty and polluted environment or even genetic predisposition.
However, people will always acquire cancer outside these confines.
“You might be eating healthy food and avoiding alcohol, drugs and smoking and you still get cancer,” Dr Nyongesa said.
She explained that the body’s immune system is constantly battling cancerous cells, and in situations where it goes down the cancer develops.
“This is why HIV patients are prone to getting cancer,” she offered.