Cancer is the third leading cause of deaths in Kenya.
Unfortunately, a high percentage of those who suffer this condition cannot afford its very expensive treatment.
A good number of families have gone bankrupt from managing the disease, while others are servicing loans related to cancer treatment.
Even those who once thought they could manage cancer end up stretching their arms out for help as their finances dwindle.
Those who can afford fly overseas to seek specialised treatment worth millions only to succumb to the disease.
Some have been declared cancer-free, but the celebration is often short-lived as the disease recurs in more potent versions.
Most patients in Kenya tend to lose hope when they test positive for cancer because of the financial implications and looking at the poor recovery trends.
This is caused by not only the low number of cancer specialists, but also the few treatment options.
There is also scarce information about the disease, leading to many myths.
It is, therefore, important for people to be educated on cancer, not only in October, the Cancer Awareness Month, but all-year round, to have the right information to make informed decisions.
For instance, a lot of people only wait to go for the screening in October after which they forget about it.
Because research has shown that cancer is treatable if detected early, it is important to go for frequent screening.
It is such a relief that there are many cancer awareness foundations that support those affected and are in the frontline creating awareness.
Hopefully, the government will support these efforts.
Unfortunately, cancer does not choose race, age or colour. It does not have any particular trend it follows.
This makes everyone a potential victim as scientists work round the clock to find the cause.
Many things have been pointed out as causes of the disease.
Others have been rubbished as myths while others are being subjected to more research.
However, according to the Kenya National Cancer Organisation, alcohol and tobacco are the main causes of multiple cancers.
A very small percentage of cancer infections is tied to family history.
A number of organisations, including MEDS, have intensified the fight against cancer, giving hope to many patients and their families.
MEDS is a faith-based medical supply chain and capacity building organisation that provides medicines and medical supplies in Kenya and the region.
It is working with the national and county governments to ensure availability of quality and affordable health commodities.
Kenya’s health sector faces immense challenges and no single entity, even the government, can meet all its needs.
That’s why organisations need to work in partnership to increase access to quality and affordable health care for millions of patients in Africa.
If MEDS’s collaboration model with various partners, including faith-based health facilities, county governments and multinational organisations such as AstraZeneca (Healthy Heart Africa), Johnson & Johnson (Maternal and child mortality), and Novo Nordisk (BoP project for diabetes care) and Norvatis-Sandoz in managing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as breast cancer, hypertension, diabetes and asthma is bearing fruit, then more partnerships can achieve tremendous results in the war on many diseases.
Some of the counties that have benefited from this worthy cause include Nyeri, Elgeyo/ Marakwet, Kirinyaga and Meru.
If more organisations and governments could adopt this collaborative approach, Kenya and Africa could make huge strides in fighting cancer.
Dr Masiga is the managing director of Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS). [email protected]