Turkana county Governor’s wife Lilian Lomorukai has vowed to take a leading role in sensitizing county residents on the need to undergo cancer screening and have girls vaccinated with the HPV to prevent cancer.
Mrs Lomorukai who was the chief guest during the celebrations to mark World Cancer Day in Lodwar said she would be traversing the seven sub counties to encourage residents especially women to undergo cancer screening.
She said that awareness is the first step towards handling the cancer menace.
‘Women should not be ashamed of going for cervical cancer screening because when cancer is detected in early stages it can be treated,’ she said.
She also dismissed calls to seek consent from girls aged 10-14 before they are vaccinated with HPV vaccine saying it was for their own good and the government would not seat back as they are exposed to the threat of cancer.
The county first spouse also appealed to the Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai (her husband) and President William Ruto to mobilize resources to support cancer victims.
She noted that the governor has set up an oncology clinic at Lodwar County and Referral Hospital and called for more resource allocation from the county and national government to support the facility.
‘I am appealing to the President and the Governor to mobilize resources from within and outside the country to support the fight against cancer,’ she said.
This year’s theme was “closing the care gap”.
Governor Lomorukai in his speech read by the chief officer for health Peter Lomorukai said last year, 948 women were screened for cancer, 66 of whom had suspicious lesions.
The figure falls short of the annual county screening target of 17,877.
‘At our Lodwar County Referral Hospital alone, we have been able to see 162 new cancer cases in the past year. This is like saying that we see a new case every two days at the facility. This is not a small number considering that most patients come late and that the cost of cancer treatment is immense. We all can do something about this,’ said Lomorukai.
To combat the cancer menace the county has adopted a strategy where 90 percent of girls should be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15 years. Secondly, 70 percent of women are screened with a high-performance test by 35 years of age and again by 45 years of age and thirdly to have 90 percent of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90 percent of women with pre-cancer treatment, and 90 percent of women with invasive cancer managed).
County director for preventive and promotive health Dr Bonventure Ameyo said the HPV vaccine is safe and has no long-term effects on fertility other than protection against cancer of the cervix.
He also encouraged women to self-examine their breasts regularly for any lumps which could be cancerous, noting that healthcare workers are available to teach them how to effectively do this.
‘For eligible women, please note also that we have a mammogram machine at our Lodwar County Referral hospital as a diagnostic tool,’ he said.
While encouraging stakeholders and ministries such as Sports, Agriculture and Roads to support the control of non-communicable diseases in general by encouraging an active society, he encouraged residents to adopt healthy lifestyles such as being active, practicing safe sex, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking amongst others.
The wife of speaker of the county assembly Jacinta Nakuleu who lost a daughter to cancer urged the residents to seek screening early enough.
Mrs Nakuleu narrated the pains she underwent seeking treatment for her two year old daughter who was diagnosed with a growth in the head which turned out to be cancerous.
‘It is was so painful to see my daughter suffering, I reached a point where I asked God to take her home if it was going to ease her suffering,’ she said.
The girl passed on at the age of five.
By Peter Gitonga