What happened to Breast Cancer Month?


I guess breast cancer is no longer a threat. The reason I say so is because we are almost half way into October yet we have not heard anything much about the famous pink ribbon.

Not from the government, nor from Non Governmental Organisations,  but the biggest shame is on the government which despite having two health ministries whose mandate Kenyans can hardly differentiate, seems not to have realised this is the breast cancer month.

Despite the World Health Organisation warning that cancer may become the number one killer disease in 10 years time, Kenya seems to have taken no serious measures.

As usual, the government is best at reacting when the damage has already been done. Even as experts warn that breast cancer cases are on the rise, the government remains nonchalant.

All the work has been left on the Breast Cancer Association and other like-minded private organisations such as the Aga Khan University Hospital to create awareness and tell people why it is important to go for early breast cancer tests.

Without even looking at its incapacity to provide cancer units throughout the country, our government is quite comfortable waiting for disasters.

Let’s face it. Our political leaders have so much money that taking their relatives to South Africa, Europe or America for treatment is like the way ordinary Kenyans plan to travel up country.

So who cares if there is only one unit that serves the close to 40 million people?

Our leaders know very well that even the cancer unit at Kenyatta National Hospital is not modernised enough to treat people that is why October is likely to slip away without any comment from the government’s health institutions.

Still at our only referral hospital, how cheap is it for someone with breast cancer to get treatment? For someone with a lump on the breast, a diagnostic test has to be done, it costs between Sh10, 000 and Sh20, 000 in a public hospital. In private hospitals one is likely to pay between Sh50, 000 to Sh100, 000.

After diagnosis follows chemotherapy – if the lump is cancerous. At Kenyatta National Hospital, the regiments cost about Sh10, 000 per cycle. Chemotherapy is usually done in six cycles. Then going through biological or radiotherapy, one spends about Sh300 per session and usually one gets between 20 to 30 sessions. At a private hospital a session costs about Sh25, 000.

This means that one needs about Sh90, 000 to get treatment for cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital despite the inefficient process at the only public cancer unit in the country.

One wonders, what is the government doing to arrest the rising cases of breast cancer which lately is also affecting men? In which vision can Kenyans start expecting modern cancer units to serve all Kenyans so that we don’t see people travelling from East, West, North and South to come to an ill equipped cancer unit?

If not soon, then please can the government make use of the Breast Cancer Month to alert Kenyans of the rising cases of breast cancer and the importance of early testing?

It should also tell the public that with the ever advancing technology in treatment, cancer is not a death sentence neither does it mean that one has to loose his/ her breast.

(Judie Kaberia is a Capital FM reporter)

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