Cancer is a monster that many dread to even mention and yet it continues to ravage individuals, wreaking havoc on families. It manifests itself in many different types.
The latest statistics indicate that 28,000 Kenyans die every year of cancer illnesses, hence the need to create intense awareness, and as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
March is the month of cancer awareness all over the world
One of the Kenyan medical practitioners waging a relentless war against cancer is Dr Geoffrey Zambezi Mutuma, a consultant clinical pathologist, with a special interest in cancer control, prevention, registration and surveillance.
The Nairobi-based Dr Mutuma has handled many cancer patients during his more than 30 years of medical practice.
In an interview on Citizen TVs Sema Na Citizen programme, he spoke passionately about the need for early cancer testing and treatment.
Types of cancer
Dr Mutuma said that breast, cervix and colon cancers are most common in females.
Stomach, prostrate and esophagus cancer mostly affect men.
Four percent of women in Kenya have one of the cancers but do not know. This has been revealed during the ongoing free cancer scanning at Zambezi Cancer and General Hospital in Nairobi South C in the run-up to the annual Zambezi Cancer Walk.
When Do You Go for Cancer Testing?
Dr Mutuma said that in Stages 1 and 2, cancer is not painful and does not show signs and symptoms.
He advised people to go for cancer testing at the nearest facility.
When people start having persistent pains, he said, cancer is usually at Stages 3 and 4, and it is hard to cure.
Cancer can take three to four years in one’s body before showing any signs or causing pain.
“People in the rural areas are in the biggest danger, as cancer scanning facilities are not available.”
Stages 1 and 2 are treated by surgery on the infected organ
After an operation, a patient can be completely free of cancer, which is why early testing is encouraged.
Stages 3 and 4 require chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy entails the use of drugs.
Radiotherapy is the use of X-rays to burn cancer cells.
Chemotherapy mostly requires six complete cycles.
Cancer Treatment Cost and Recurrence Possibility
Dr Mutuma said that at Stages 1 and 2, cancer treatment in Kenya costs roughly between Ksh20,000 and Ksh25,000 and Stages 3 and 4, between Ksh200,000 and Ksh400,000.
It is possible for the condition to reoccur even after one tests cancer-free. This is why Dr Mutuma advised patients to have regular cancer reviews, say, every six months or one year.
He stated that he had witnessed recurrences of the ailment after five and 10 years.