october is breast cancer awareness month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked by nations across the globe. According to the 2018 GLOBOCAN report, 24.2% i.e., 1 in every 4 of all new cancer cases diagnosed in women are breast cancer cases [1].
This makes breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women globally. It also accounts for the lion’s share (15%) of all cancer-related mortalities in women.

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The low- and middle-income countries are increasingly having to bear the brunt of the disease due to factors such as:

  • Changing reproductive patterns like reduced breastfeeding and later age at first childbirth.
  • Increased life expectancy
  • The adoption of sedately/unhealthy lifestyles.

The Scourge of Cancer in Kenya

With Kenya being a middle-income country, the cancer burden has been on the rise. It is the 3rd leading cause of death after cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

The 2018 GLOBOCAN report indicates that about 47,887 of new cancer cases are diagnosed annually with mortality of 32,987. These figures are just a few degrees shy of a 45% increase in incidence compared to 2012 that recorded 37,000 new cancer cases and a mortality of 28,500 annually [1].

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Highlights

  • Breast cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths after oesophageal and cervical cancer.
  • The majority of these deaths (324 000) occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Breast, oesophagus, cervix uteri, colorectum, and prostate cancers are the leading new cancer cases diagnosed in both men and women across all ages.
  • 70-80% of cancer cases in Kenya are diagnosed at advanced stages making it hard to cure it.
  • Screening and early diagnosis is the best approach for breast cancer control.

The KUTRRH Commitment

With Kenya being one of the countries that have seen a high mortality rate courtesy of breast cancer, the hospital has embarked on a mission to alleviate the problem. The late-stage diagnosis is one of the greatest impediments in Kenya to making significant progress in combating this disease.

As such, the hospital is focusing on breast cancer control initiatives that entail early detection through cancer screening and prevention. This is in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) that champions early detection and screening as the cornerstone of breast cancer control.

With that said, late diagnosis is not the only challenge that plagues the war against breast cancer and other types of cancer in Kenya. There is also the aspect of limited awareness by the public and health care providers. Moreover, there exists a limited capacity to offer access to affordable, timely, and effective diagnosis and cancer treatment [3].

With October being the breast cancer awareness month, it kick-starts our journey of increasing awareness of the early signs and symptoms of cancer. This includes both the health professionals and the public as well.  Our hospital is equipped with the capacity for prompt diagnostic evaluation such as biopsy, imaging, and pathology services.

Affordability of these services is also another aspect that the health industry needs to consider for these interventions to be sustainable. However, what will get us in the right path of the beginning of the end of the cancer scourge in Kenya is continuous screening, awareness, training, research, and capacity building.

 

ICT officer, content development and digital media at Kenyatta University Teaching Referral & Research Hospital.