NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – They gathered in their hundreds at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi with a common call of vigilance in early screening and affordable treatment of cancer.
Joined by about 30 First Ladies from the African continent, Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said the 9th Stop Cancer Conference was important in gauging progress made by the continent in responding to reproductive cancers.
“It gives us an opportunity to pose and look back at what we have achieved in the last nine years in order for us to chat the way forward. So far, we have succeeded in raising awareness of cervical, breast and prostate cancers among our African population,” she explained.
The conference, she said, also sets the agenda on next approaches of dealing with challenges experienced in management of the three cancers.
In her view, the conference was also a reminder to African states to utilise Private Public Partnership opportunities to invest in projects that will make cancer services affordable and accessible.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya is advancing in plans to establish four cancer treatment and care centres that will also serve the wider African region.
He expressed concerns that in Kenya there were 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer every year with more than half of those affected succumbing to the disease which could have been prevented or managed.
“Africa has some of the highest cervical cancer incidences and deaths in the world. In Kenya alone the situation is quite unsettling. Half of these (3000 cases) unfortunately are resulting to death due to late diagnosis,” he said.
Accessing cancer services for early screening, treatment and also palliative care was also a problem for Kenya and many other African countries as explained by President Kenyatta.
He urged key players in the field to accrue their energies in saving lives by focusing on prevention, early detection and affordable cancer treatment.
Through personal experiences with cancer, delegates heard that with early detection cancer is manageable and curable.
Several speakers from different countries shared their journey of finding out they had cancer, treating it and some celebrating the complete cure of the disease.
Senior vice President Global Academic Programs Oliver Bogla is one of the men diagnosed with breast cancer.
He urged men to as well go for cancer screening since they are also at risk.
“One in every 100 patients is a man, and I am one of them. In fact there is some information that perhaps in Africa the problem of male breast cancer is higher. There is also evidence in the United States that men of African descent have a worst prognosis with breast cancer,” he said.
Former Director General and Head of Technical Cooperation Agency in Vienna who is a Ghanaian said many African cancer patients succumb to the disease due to lack of cancer management services.
“Prostate cancer is in my family. Cancer killed my late father my uncle and my two cousins. The difference between my father, my uncles, my two cousins and my siblings and me was geography. My siblings and I were in the US or in Europe so we survived. My father, uncles and cousins were in Ghana and they didn’t have a chance.”
Breast Cancer Survivor, Senator Beth Mugo said she owes her full recovery two years ago to early detection and treatment.
In conclusion, the four cancer survivors who shared the stories gave hope that cancer is indeed not a death sentence but a condition that can be managed to live with it or get fully cured.