NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – In January this year, Margaret Muriuki suffered a cancer recurrence.
This was after she had gone through a whole course of treatment which involved mastectomy, six sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy last year.
“It started with back pain. A bone scan was done at Kenyatta National Hospital and it showed that the cancer has recurred. (Doctors) recommended that I resume chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” Margaret, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, narrates.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses a combination of drugs to destroy cancer cells.
It can be used in early-stage invasive breast cancer to get rid of any cancer cells that may be left behind after surgery and also reduce the risk of the cancer coming back and it can also be used in advanced stage breast cancer to destroy the cancer cells as much as possible.
Radiotherapy treatment on the other hand uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells while doing little harm to normal cells. It reduces the risk of breast cancer recurring in the breast or chest area.
Margaret now needs Sh55, 000 per session of chemotherapy at Kenyatta National Hospital and she is supposed to go for six sessions.
Being the only parent to her two children and jobless, she is yet to access treatment after the recurrence because it is too expensive for her.
“I was to start on June 17 but I didn’t because I have lacked funds. I have tried all I can but I have not been lucky,” she says.
“I was told a repeat of the chemo and radiotherapy is expensive because what I had developed was skeletal metastases which had spread to my back, one side of the head, leg and hand,” she explains.
According to medics, skeletal metastases are a major orthopedic complication arising from failed cancer treatment and are commonly associated with disabling pain and pathologic fracture.
In the first course of chemotherapy treatment that Margaret underwent last year, it cost her Sh10, 000 per session for six sessions.
The cost of chemotherapy normally depends with the drug combination that will be administered on a patient.
According to Dr Alice Musibi a medical oncologist, breast cancer can recur due to a variety of reasons.
She says the major problem is that there is no known cause of breast cancer. Also because of the expensive nature of treatment, some patients are not consistent with treatment and so a recurrence can occur.
“A few other things that make cancer recur is drug response where even after treatment not all the cancer cells within the blood system get killed and so within a short time it recurs,” Dr Musibi informs.
“We also have problems with our drug systems, we have so many briefcase suppliers and we can’t actually vouch for the viability of those chemotherapeutic drugs so a person will go through the treatment, but literally some of those drugs are chalk,” she adds.
However, if detected early, Musibi says, 98 percent of the cancers are curable. This is where a patient stays for more than ten years without evidence of recurrence.
Women and even men are encouraged to do regular self breast examination and mammograms for early detection.
Signs of breast cancer include lumps, nipple change or breast pain.
To assist Margaret Muriuki undergo treatment, you can reach her on 0719 276 844 or Margaret Muriuki Kenya Commercial Bank account number 1118980425.