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Kericho residents urged to seek early diagnosis of throat cancer

Kericho residents have been urged to recognize symptoms of throat cancer to enable them to detect the disease early before it advances to an unmanageable stage.

Throat cancer refers to cancer that develops in the throat or voice box. The throat is a muscular tube that begins behind the nose and ends at the neck. The voice box sits below the throat and it contains the vocal cords that vibrate to make sound when one talks.

A resident surgeon at the AIC Litein Kericho Annex Clinic Dr. Philip Blasto has advised patients to recognize the symptoms to guard against long-term problems such as inability to swallow food and loss of speech.

“If you experience a persistent change in voice that doesn’t have an obvious explanation then you should probably have it checked. But by the time someone has obvious symptoms they are unable to swallow, their voice has significant change or they do not have a voice at all. If you have swollen lymph nodes on the neck you ought to have this checked as well as ear pain. The problem with this type of cancer is that it may take a while before the symptoms come but if you do not have a cold or flu and your condition has not improved in the next two to three weeks and it is getting worse you ought to have your throat checked. Do not disregard a persistent symptom,” explained Dr. Blasto.

In an interview with KNA at the medical facility, Dr. Blasto agitated for personal health checks for early diagnosis of the disease which could be treated quickly while noting that there is no active screening for throat cancer.

“Early diagnosis has a higher probability of getting a patient cured but the challenge with throat cancer is that it is significantly rare and therefore there is no active screening in our population, unlike breast and cervical cancer where mammogram and pap smear tests are conducted to detect the early signs of the disease.  A person with cancer in the lower part of the throat may not have symptoms in the early stages making it harder to spot,” he said.

He explained that radiotherapy and surgery were the treatment options for patients ailing from throat cancer.

“The challenge is that a patient needs to come early to be diagnosed so that once you get the treatment options available stemming from various factors. It depends on the location of the cancer, how involved it is; early, middle, or late and it depends on the patient’s age, whether are they weak or strong. We put these factors together and decide on the way forward. Throat cancer tumors respond well to radiotherapy and surgery,” the doctor noted.

Dr. Blasto revealed that last year, the medical facility encountered two patients aged 60 and 23 years from Kericho County whose throat cancers were noted later in progress and they are currently on treatment.

“In 2023, we had two patients who were found to have throat cancer which was detected to have advanced. The earlier it is diagnosed the better.  The place where we talk from is also the place where air passes through and they were unable to breathe well so we had to make a pipe for them through the neck for them to breathe well. The female patient aged 23 years underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and she is doing much better,” said Dr. Blasto.

He said patients had a right to seek a second opinion from a healthcare professional if they were unsure about the suggested medical treatment, or diagnosis or noted no changes in their condition.

“So if you see a health care provider and there is no change then maybe you have to move to another health facility and you ask them to see another doctor with more knowledge,” added Dr. Blasto.

By Sarah Njagi

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