Brain Tumour Association of Kenya (BTAK) kicked off a campaign at the Moi County Referral Hospital (MCRH) in Voi, Taita-Taveta County that is aimed at raising awareness on neurological ailments and brain tumour diagnosis with an emphasis on early detection.
Specialists from BTAK, an association that consists of medical experts whose specialty is brain ailments, termed the campaign as a critical pillar in promoting early diagnosis of brain tumours and other neurosurgical conditions in the country.
The team of seven doctors, in partnership with Taita Taveta County Government, is conducting a three-day awareness and screening exercise to provide free services to brain tumour patients and spread expert information on the early signs and symptoms of the condition.
Addressing the media during the event, Dr Parmenaus Okemwa, a consultant neuropathologist and Chairman of BTAK, said that the campaign was to promote awareness of brain conditions at the grassroots level.
Dr Okemwa said that the campaign is advocating for special care and quality treatment outcomes in order to promote and bring neurological services closer to the people.
“With just a few specialized centres in the country, the total healthcare for brain tumours is expensive. One of our main objectives here is to advocate for access to quality and affordable healthcare for these patients,” he said.
He added that BTAK will hold such awareness drives in all the 47 counties across Kenya to increase awareness on brain tumors to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment.
He said trained health workers will be able to make sound judgment on the nature of the tumor and refer the patients for specialized tests should need arises.
The neuropathologist stated that though the number of experts in brain ailments remained low in the country, BTAK was keen on creating awareness on the capacity the country had to conduct delicate operations like brain surgery. He said that Kenyatta National Hospital had at least one brain surgery operation daily.
“The country has expertise to conduct surgical operations of the brain and this significantly cuts down on the need to seek expensive treatment abroad,” he said.
He added that this need for early detection through awareness was informed by the fact that brain tumors were the second most common tumors in children. He noted that proper education will enhance early reporting of such conditions for treatment.
Dr Tracey John, a Consultant Neurosurgeon and Deputy Secretary General of BTAK, termed late diagnosis of brain tumours a major problem in Kenya, with most cases being misdiagnosed as migraines.
“We want to create awareness on how we can be able to pick these tumours early enough, make a diagnosis as soon as a patient starts experiencing the symptoms and do the necessary imaging so that they can start treatment early enough,” she said.
She revealed that one of the main objectives of the association was to train more neurosurgeons and empower health-workers across the country through skills transfer and provision of the required information on making brain tumour diagnosis.
“We are conducting continuous medical education so that every health worker or clinician attending to a patient can be able to screen out the possibility of a brain tumour early enough and be able to know where they can refer the patient,” she added.
The medical education sessions were being held for medics in Taveta Sub-County Hospital, Wesu Hospital in Wundanyi and Moi County Referral Hospital also in Voi.
BTAK has formed collaborations with various organisations and learning institutions in the country where neurosurgeons are trained to build on their capacity in the field, enhance the diagnosis, and increase the survival outcomes for the patients.
In Kenya, experts on brain ailments are less than 100. There is a single resident neurosurgeon in the entire Coast Region based in Coast General Hospital in Mombasa County.
As part of this year’s International Brain Tumour Awareness Week that commenced on 30th October to November 6, the association seeks to address the awareness gap by spreading the much-needed information on brain tumours.
BTAK officials further encouraged Kenyans to enroll with NHIF noting that most of the treatment cost for brain ailments are covered. “Most of the costs related to diagnosis and treatment of tumors are covered under NHIF. The cover takes care of the expenses for the patient,” said Dr. Okemwa.
By Raphew Mukuyia