Free Breast Cancer Screening in Kenya: Should you bank on it?

Tags: #Breastcancerscreening #Breastcancerinkenya #stage4breastcancer #selfbreastexam #cancerfreewomen

According to Daily Nation newspaper published on October 23, 2013, Mary Namata, a Ugandan lady stayed with breast lesion for 4 years before she could seek medical help. The wounds became too painful for her to live like that and it was until that point she went to seek medical help. By the time she went to the hospital, Mary was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. To be exact, Mary had stage 4 fungating breast cancer where the cancer wounds had penetrated the skin and had opened outside the breast.

In Kenya, hundreds of thousands of women tune on the news and hit on google searching for free breast cancer screening in their areas. This is a very good sign because it implies that the number of women recognizing October as breast cancer month in Kenya is increasing. It is at “creating” awareness level that we must start to control this African women slayer overshadowed by HIV/AIDS & Malaria.

But, is it wise to risk your life waiting for free breast cancer screening, mammograms? Kenya has less than 15 mammogram machines primarily in private settings, meaning, chances of actually getting a free mammogram without a sponsor are very low. Notice that Kenya has far more mammogram machines than all other East African states combined.

Here is the good news, you can start the fight against breast cancer early by doing Breast self Exam (BSE) starting age 20. To carry an effective self breast exam, this is what you should know: –

Learn how your normal breast feel and look:

The key to early detection of breast cancer is the key to survival. Success in Self Breast Exam (BSE) is dependent on knowing more about your normal and your risk factors. That way, if you detect anything abnormal, you would be able to notice it and take the necessary action…Mammogram!

To learn your normal breast, it is recommended you check your breast at least once a month in front of a mirror. You should expect to see

  • Breasts that are in usual shape, size and color. In most women, breast that are equal in size. Should you doubt any of these, get a clinician to take a look.
  • Breast that are evenly shaped without any disfigurement or distortion. No dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin.
  • Nipples that are even, well contoured without swelling, redness or inwardly inverted. Any unexpected discharge from the nipples must be reported immediately to a doctor for further evaluation.

Know the warning signs of breast cancer: Memorize them!

  • A lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or armpit(s).
  • Any wound, pimple, boil or blister occurring on your breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple or anywhere on the breast. Do not ignore Itchiness!!
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge of any colour (not milk for expectant or breast feeding mothers) that starts suddenly.  High alert if the discharge is from one breast, comes out without squeezing, is clear or bloody.
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away, or pain that cannot be related to any traumatic event.

Know your risk factors:

  • Family history of breast cancer: If anyone in your family (father or mother’s side) has breast cancer or died of breast cancer, consider yourself a high risk. This is because family lineage in Africa is poorly defined
  • Overweight or obese. Being overweight in Africa is seen as a sign of wellbeing but in actual sense, this increases breast cancer risk
  • Being female: Meaning, every woman should consider themselves as breast cancer risk factor.
  • Increase in age. The more you age, the higher the risk
  • Beginning of menstrual cycles too early, before age 12
  • Giving birth to a first child after age 35. This increases your breast cancer risk factor
  • Having never been pregnant: Women that have never been pregnant have a much higher risk of breast cancer
  • Drinking alcohol: Women that drink alcohol are at higher risk of breast cancer than those who doesn’t

Do not wait until you can get a free breast cancer screening in Africa. It may never happen and waiting could put your life and your family in danger. Remember without women in Africa, our societies would collapse. A woman is the single most important figure in our society. You are important and worth everything in the world. Be safe!

Beth Mugo & Breast Cancer Pledge

Just over a year ago, president Uhuru Kenyatta Kin, Beth Mugo was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was not good news for anyone to hear a fellow prominent Kenyan politician fighting breast cancer. Hundreds of thousands more women are fighting breast cancer in Kenya as well but the road ahead of each breast cancer fighter is not the same. Some have it easier than others. It’s just the way it is.

beth mugo breast cancerBeth Mugo flew to one of the world best breast cancer treatment hospitals in the world located in North East America and later she was declared cancer free woman. Beth Mugo received surgery and chemotherapy and she may have future follow-up clinic visit with world top oncologists in USA. Beth Mugo belongs to Cancer Free Women league of women that should help others stay safe from breast cancer. After breast cancer pushed her to the edge of the cliff, Beth Mugo made a pledge.

While in the hospital, 17 women members of parliament visited Beth Mugo in the hotel she was residing in while going through cancer treatment in USA. The gesture was a positive one and millions of Kenyans witnessed true love for their leaders. Beth Mugo and the 17 female MPs agreed to launch a breast cancer center and awareness campaigns to help control breast cancer in Kenya. Beth Mugo even went on to hold promising talks with the university hospital and USA government officials on how she can spearhead a cancer treatment center in Kenya to fight not just breast Cancer but also other forms of cancer. This project is yet to be heard.

Does it mean that Kenyan politicians only respond to crises selfishly? Maybe I am missing something but does it mean breast cancer fight was only important to Beth Mugo when she was sick and no longer important after she’s cancer free? Beth Mugo owes to the Kenyan women, men and their families to live up to her pledges to fight breast cancer in Kenya. Her legacy would be far much stronger if she dedicated the rest of her life fighting breast cancer in Kenya.

Around the same time Beth Mugo was diagnosed with breast cancer, health minister Anyang Nyong’o was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Like Beth Mugo, Nyong’o joined the same chorus by pledging on how he would his powers in his position to fight cancer in Kenya. While millions of Kenyans believe that Nyong’o and Charity Ngilu made health industry in Kenya worse that they found it, Nyong’o too owes his fellow Kenyans to fight cancer and he should be held accountable for his pledges. Words are stronger than money and the curse of such unfulfilled promises to the public might come back and haunt him.

Breast cancer is number one killer in Kenya for women between age 35 and 55. The bracket could be higher but life expectancy for women in Kenya is about 55 years. Beth Mugo is among the lucky few to have seen her 70th birthday and survive breast cancer after age 70. The mortality rate of breast cancer in Kenya is above 80%. Over 80% of the known breast cancer cases in Kenya are diagnosed at late stages (3&4).  Kenya has less than 15 mammogram machines and 12 of them are located in Nairobi high end hospitals and clinics where only a handful like Beth Mugo can afford.

It is important that Kenyan leaders and government in general start recognizing breast cancer as a national calamity. Responding with hot air pledges during crisis is not going to help millions of Kenyan women faced by breast cancer today. Beth Mugo is a Cancer Free Woman and owes her pledges to Kenyans to fight breast cancer the rest of her life or does she? Otherwise, the curse of her words from her lips might come back and haunt her.