Breast Cancer In Kenya
Cancer is one of the greatest health challenges of our time, and a leading cause of death in every corner of the world.
Without preventative measures, the disproportionate majority of mortality from cancer occurs in low and middle income countries, where there is limited availability of screening, early detection and access to treatment.
Cancer among Kenyan Women
Breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women globally.
In 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 685,000 deaths were recorded globally (WHO-breast cancer, 2020).
It is estimated that, in just the next 20 years, 70% of cancers will be diagnosed in countries on the lower end of the socioeconomic gradient, such as Kenya.
In Kenya, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, accounting for 23% of all cases of female cancers (34 per 100,000).
Breast cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality in Kenyan women (global cancer statistics, 2020), and by 2025 the annual incidence of breast cancer in Kenya is predicted to rise to 7,396 (a 66% increase), with an annual mortality of 3,258 people (according to the International Agency for Research in Cancer).
Breast cancer incidence and mortality rates are rising much faster in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to high income countries like the UK.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Kenyan women, and clearly constitutes a major public health problem.
A feared diagnosis
The majority of breast cancer patients in Kenya are diagnosed at late stages contributing to higher mortality and low survival rate.
Breast cancer remains a feared diagnosis that many individuals continue to link with death.
It has caused disability to its victims, left many families in financial difficulties and barely surviving, as treatment is not free in Kenya.
Due to the lack of affordable health care in Kenya, and the limited use of preventative health care, most Kenyan people do not usually see health care providers for preventative measures.
In addition, because most Kenyans live in remote rural places, limited resources such as income and limited health care facilities can be factors preventing women in Kenya from accessing screening services.
These women will prioritise the necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing and education for their family members, over their own health matters.
Poor medical care
Many women living with breast cancer in Kenya are diagnosed at later stages due to lack of cancer awareness, inadequate diagnostic facilities, high cost of treatment and high poverty index.
These factors contribute to high mortality rate, especially among the undocumented patients in rural areas, as many locals assume cancer is a curse.
Every single breast cancer survivor deserves a better quality of life, happiness, and most importantly social support.
This is the reason why the Mama Melissa Foundation promotes breast cancer awareness and provides support to breast cancer patients, survivors and their families.
The organisation has created a local and online support group that is essential in providing resources to cancer survivors, enabling them to live longer, enjoy a better life after cancer, and a dignified end of life for terminal cases.en
Did you know breast cancer affects black & white women differently?
Breast cancer is not unique to one race or type of person. This disease does not discriminate based on the colour of your skin; that much is clear.
But breast cancer does affect racial groups differently.
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidences of breast cancer for white and black women are the same. However, black women are up to 40% more likely to die from this treatable disease.
Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive sub type of breast cancer, the triple negative breast cancer which is difficult to treat, especially if diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Other factors affect black people, such as lack of awareness, access to preventative treatments, access to health care services and socio economic status.
This is even more the case in Kenya, where the majority of the women live in a rural area and below the poverty line, and that is why the Mama Melissa Foundation was set-up.
Our first challenge though was to 'break the silence'...