Kenya's Youth Exposed to Cancer Wave - Report

  • Equipment and beds at the Kenyatta University Referral Hospital.
    Equipment and beds at the Kenyatta University Referral Hospital.
  • A 5-year study submitted by Dr. Mohamed Maalim during the recent Kenya International Cancer Conference, detailed worrying statistics touching on Kenya's youth.

    "About 30% of the patients were less than 50 years, which is a new trend as a previous study had shown no patients below that age,

    "Stomach cancer cases in Kenya are growing. With an estimated 2,127 new cases and  2,068 deaths every year, Kenya has the highest numbers in Africa," reads an excerpt from the study.

    According to the team of oncologists based at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the new trend is tied to obesity, poor diets low in fiber, and desk-bound lifestyles.

    Accident and emergency entrance at Kenyatta National Hospital.
    Accident and emergency entrance at Kenyatta National Hospital.

    Worryingly, the report revealed that younger patients tend to have an aggressive form of the disease with about 38% of the patients diagnosed when the disease had progressed extensively to nearby organs.

    In addition, the patients below 40 years of age had a worse survival rate, further bucking the previous trend in which the elderly were the hardest hit.

    Stomach/gastric cancer normally starts with persistent abdominal pain and vomiting with significant weight loss recorded in other patients. H pylori infection has also been identified as a major cause of this type of cancer.

    The records reviewed during the 5-year research showed that patients had blood in their stool, changes in bowel movement, obstructed intestines, and constant abdominal pains.

    According to Dr. Maalim, most of these young patients are often misdiagnosed as having common digestive issues and that by the time the correct diagnosis is made, the cancer has already metastasized to other organs.

    "Stage 3 and stage 4 cancers amounted to over 70% of the patients in the study," reads an excerpt from the report.

    The fact that most doctors do not consider checking for some types of cancer in younger patients was identified as a major weakness in the fight against the killer disease.

    Stomach cancer has a 5-year survival rate of only 23% meaning that 77% of patients die within 5 years of diagnosis.

    The group of oncologists raised the importance of an optimised diet during the conference with foods high in antioxidants such as berries highly recommended.

    It is common for people with stomach cancer to have problems eating and digesting food. This has been attributed to several reasons including the stomach not emptying properly which makes one feel full for longer than normal.

    The rapid rise in cancer cases pushed the Ministry of Health to launch a cancer policy framework on July 3, 2020.

    Speaking during the unveiling of the Kenya Cancer Policy 2019-2030, the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Rashid Aman disclosed that the document provides a framework on how to comprehensively manage the cancer burden in the country.

    He noted that the Ministry had put in place deliberate efforts to improve access to cancer services under the Universal Health Coverage.

    "This means that basic cancer care can now be accessed at nearby county health facilities and I am urging cancer patients on active treatment, those on follow-up as well those seeking a diagnosis to utilize these services," the CAS emphasised.

    Health CAS Rashid Aman addressing the media at a press briefing. May 13, 2020.
    Health CAS Rashid Aman addressing the media at a press briefing. May 13, 2020.
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