Two weeks ago, I learnt of the death of a cancer patient we once supported financially at Safaricom Foundation.
She was a single mother of three who suffered breast cancer. By the time she died, the cancer had spread to the bones. Her children are now orphaned at a very tender age.
Though I had not had a chance to interact with her, it disturbed me and left me wondering, for how long are we going to continue losing cancer patients? What can we do to avoid these deaths?
Government statistics indicate that we are losing 22,000 people annually due to various cancers. The annual incidence is estimated to be at 28,000 cases. This tells you that of the 28,000 people diagnosed with cancer in Kenya annually, only 6,000 are likely to survive the year.
Cancer now ranks third as a leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.If today, you go to the Kenyatta National Hospital children’s cancer ward, there are tens of children who have known no other home-some very young. They have spent most of their lifetime at the children’s ward battling the disease.
The leading cancers in women here in Kenya are said to be breast, oesophagus and cervical. In men, oesophagus and prostate cancer top the list while lymphoma and leukemia are the common childhood cancers.
It is unfortunate that we get to speak out on cancer only when we have commemorative days. We need to move away from that and address it as a major order of business. We must provide the necessary facilities that will ensure cancer patients do not die prematurely, and this is the responsibility of both the public and private sector.
It is time we took action because cancer is spreading like bush fire and killing indiscriminately.
Our public health facilities where most cancer patients seek care and treatment must be equipped to a high standard to deal with these rising cases.
We must have a data system that is current so that we can understand as a country the magnitude of the problem we are dealing with. Let us also choose healthy lifestyles, deliver early detection, achieve treatment for all and maximise quality of life for cancer patients.
As the business community, we need to realise that we also have a role in this. We must therefore step in, forge more Public-Private Partnerships for a common goal.
When cancer affects our employees either directly or indirectly, it affects our businesses too.
As the world marked Cancer day on 3rd February under the theme ‘Not beyond us’ let us remember that we only need to put in a little bit of more resources and we can assure Kenyans of access to quality care and treatment of cancer.
By moving forward together, we have the potential to show that Cancer is not beyond us.
The writer is the Chairman, Safaricom Foundation