By Sharon Atieno
With October being recognized as breast cancer awareness month, testing and screening campaigns are ongoing throughout the country. In Nairobi, various informal and formal settlements are the target of these campaigns.
The global cancer observatory estimates that in 2018 alone, there were 47, 887 cases in Kenya with breast cancer leading at 12.5%, followed by cervical cancer at 11 %. In both cases women are the most affected.
Understanding the importance of testing and screening for these two types of cancers, Phoebe Atieno, 27 years, is one of the women who showed up for the campaign organized by Tunza, a family health network organization in Dandora Estate, Nairobi.
“I was thrilled when I heard that today there would be free screening and testing in my neighbourhood. I have never had the opportunity to attend one nearby as most of the time I am usually busy,” she said.
This is her second time to attend the free screening and testing campaigns. Today, Atieno wanted to know about her status with regards to breast cancer as she had been tested for cervical cancer in the first campaign she attended in 2019.
Atieno is lucky that her test came back negative and she was cleared of breast cancer. However, some are not as lucky.
Lydia Bukati, a community health worker who participated in the exercise notes that out of the more than 200 women they screened today for breast and cervical cancer, three cases were confirmed and referred for further scanning and treatment.
Dr. Elizabeth Mwangi, who was part of the team conducting the tests, notes that out of the three confirmed cases, one was her patient.
“When I wanted to do the examination, I noticed that there was a swelling and I asked her what happened,” Dr. Mwangi narrates.
“She told me that after her last delivery, the doctors had informed her that there was a problem with her cervix. This was two years ago.”
For those two years, she has not been able to access any kind of help and she came for this exercise thinking that she would get some form of assistance to help with her situation, Dr. Mwangi said.
Despite early detection being the most effective way to fight cancer, it remains a challenge nationally. Examinations remain low, in breast cancer for instance, only 25% of women have performed a self-breast examination (SBE) and only 14% have had a clinical breast examination, according to statistics from the Ministry of health.
Dr. Mwangi urges people to turn up for such screening and testing exercises in order to know their status and get information that can help them.
“The essence of such campaigns is to help people so that they can be sure of their status and access help in good time. It is better a problem that you have that has been detected than a problem that you have that has not been detected,” she notes.