Kwale County residents have been urged to go for early cancer screening to reduce the chances of dying from the disease.
Residents of the coastal county have been told cancer is curable once it is detected in its early stages.
County Health Executive Francis Gwama says looking for cancer screening before symptoms appear means it’s easier to treat the chronic non-communicable disease.
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for approximately 7.6 million deaths in 2008 and its mortality is projected to increase to 11 million deaths in 2030, with the majority occurring in regions of the world with the least capacity to respond.
Speaking during a cancer awareness campaign organised by ‘Girls on a Mission’ organisation in Mvindeni in Msambweni Sub County, Gwama said the disease can be treated if diagnosed early enough.
“Getting regular screening tests may find breast, cervical and colorectal (colon) cancers early enough when treatment is likely to work best,” he said.
Gwama added that many people in the county have succumbed to the illness because of failure to seek treatment during the early stages of the disease.
‘‘Being diagnosed with cancer is not a death sentence. We have seen people triumphing over the illness. Let us take regular cancer tests and this will help us defeat the monster,’’ Gwama said.
The Health Executive noted that the county government has completed the construction works of a Sh40 million oncology center in Kwale County Referral Hospital and plans are underway to install cancer treatment machines by December 2021.
Gwama assured the residents that the county government is still pushing the agenda of bringing cancer treatment closer to the people adding that they are alive to the fact that the disease presents personal, societal and economic burden.
Cancer patients in Kwale County have been seeking specialized treatment in Mombasa and Nairobi.
”As a devolved unit we are aware that patients are spending a lot of money and time to seek specialized treatment in Mombasa and Nairobi and the steps we have taken shall solve this problem,” Gwama added.
He noted that the county has over 100 cancer patients who are currently undergoing treatment at the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa.
Gwama added that the county is focused on creating awareness of the disease that has claimed many lives in the county and the country at large.
The founder of the Girls on a Mission Organisation, Editha Waziri asked the residents to prioritize their health and seek medical attention regularly.
Waziri said many people have survived cancer after seeking medical attention during early stages.
‘‘It’s my joy when I see people seeking cancer tests. This is the only way we can deal with this notorious disease, which has caused havoc globally” Waziri said.
Waziri said that her organization will continue emphasizing on cancer awareness to help people win the war against the disease adding that cancer is a silent killer because of the low level of awareness.
She called on other organizations to join hands and avail adequate resources in the fight against the disease.
She said the community-based organization has been effective for over seven years and it has helped many people in Kwale to fight the disease.
The founder noted that the cost of treating the disease is immense and asked the county government to operationalise the new oncology centre to help those battling the disease that are slowly sinking into poverty.
Waziri asked residents to take the disease seriously and not to associate it with witchcraft warning unless they change their attitude it will claim many more victims.
“When people see a growth in their body they tend to ignore it until it becomes painful and seek help when it is too late and expensive to treat cancer,” she said.
She said there is a need to step up efforts to create massive awareness to enable those who are positive get early treatment at health facilities with sophisticated equipment.
Abigail Kinywa who survived breast cancer in 2006 and 2011 said the whole journey has been awful.
She said treating cancer is not easy after undergoing 20 chemotherapy sessions with each session costing Sh200, 000.
”I had breast cancer and after the surgery, it shifted to the other breast after six years and I had to go through the painful treatment again,” Abigail said.
She said cancer survivors should feel comfortable speaking openly about it as it will go a long way for people to change their perception about the disease.
Abigail noted that the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) played a big part in helping meet the costs for the surgeries and chemotherapy sessions.
The idea of extending medical cover to diseases like cancer has helped many people in Kwale and the country at large to get access to expensive treatments.
Abigail asked residents to make their health a priority adding that early diagnosis can help people overcome the disease.
The breast cancer survivor and a cancer ambassador says most people succumb to the disease since they don’t go for early checkups.
She asked the government to make free cancer treatments as it has done to HIV/AIDS patients.
Meanwhile, Gwama urged area residents to go for the Covid-19 vaccination to secure the county.
Gwama said more than 31,000 people in the county have been vaccinated and called on the larger population to take the challenge and go for the jabs.
He said the county has received all varieties of the Covid -19 vaccines and distributed them across all health centers spread in the four sub counties of Matuga, Msambweni, Kinango and Lunga Lunga.
He reminded the residents that the vaccines are safe after undergoing a series of tests by top medical experts across the globe and urged people to embrace them.
“Let’s not fear vaccines. This virus can be defeated by vaccines. We want to go back to our normal lives where we interact freely without restrictions and that can be realized if we all take the vaccination,’’, Gwama said.
By Raymond Zaka and Hussein Abdullahi