So, if breast cancer is such a killer in Africa, how comes women are not lining up to get mammograms in cities like Nairobi? Is it the cost of mammography in Kenya that is too high or is it that there are no equipment to service all the women at risk? Is it that women are not even aware of the risk or it is that no one really cares about breast cancer?
The truth is, all of the above factors contribute to this. In a simple random survey done in Kiambu Kenya, 71% of women of all women interviewed have never heard of the word “Mammogram”. 88% of women over 40 years old of those interviewed have never heard of mammography in Kenya. Only 11% have heard about mammography and only 7% have ever had a mammogram. None of those interviewed had a preventive screening mammogram
Cost of Mammogram in Kenya
Mammograms in Kenya have no standardized price. The cost primarily depends on where it is taken. Some hospitals like Nairobi Hospital charge around KSH8,000 or about $100. Compared to world average, this is relatively cheaper than most countries. But the cost of $100 for preventive mammogram is not affordable to over 80% of susceptible women in Kenya. Even 25% of that price is not affordable to 80% of Kenyan women. The only way to increase the number of preventive mammogram screening is through government funded project or donor funded mammography.
Mammogram Machines in Kenya
Kenya has a population of about 45 million people and about 18-20 million women are over 40 years old, requiring annual mammograms per Center of Disease and Control (CDC) recommendations. While mammogram machines are not the most expensive gadgets Kenyans can afford, it is discouraging to investors to buy equipment but consumers cannot afford to pay for tests. It’s heartbreaking to note that over 90% of all mammograms done in Kenya today are done for diagnostic reasons, not preventive reasons. Kenya has just over 10 mammogram machines and 95% of all these machines are located in Nairobi
Lack of Knowledge
While they say “Ignorance is a bliss”, the kind of ignorance we face in Kenya is not a bliss. This is the ignorance that kills because not knowing about breast cancer does not stop breast cancer from killing young moms and sisters. The level of awareness about breast cancer in Kenya and the rest of Africa is extremely low. We have to create necessary awareness starting with the closest woman we can reach.
Kenyans living abroad should really consider informing their loved ones about preventive mammograms. Sponsoring mammograms for loved ones in Kenya could help save a life of some one you really love.
Believe it or not, there is not one single mammography trained specialist among the few radiologists in Kenya. The few radiologists in Kenya have cross-trained across many disciplines to accommodate many under-served areas of diagnostics. Mammography technicians are as well cross-trained across many disciplines and have no mammography specific training backed by continuous education and skills update as technology and evidence based practice evolve.
The cost of mammography in Kenya is not standardized but even the most expensive hospitals charge below developed countries average price. Mammography machines are expensive and sometimes not the most worthwhile investors can channel their money to. Majority of Kenyans live below poverty line and cannot afford even highly subsidized mammograms annually. Majority of women in Kenya and all over Africa have never heard of mammograms. Lack of awareness is the biggest contributor to poor breast cancer screening in Kenya.