By Samwel Doe Ouma@samweldoe
Lack of data to collate bowel cancers disease patterns in Kenya is a major challenge in management and intervention mechanisms.
The latest 2018 Globocan data, collected from two cancer registries in Nairobi and Eldoret, indicates that 1134 new colorectal cancers were recorded in men while 1182 cases were recorded among women, with the rest of the country largely uncovered.
According to Dr. Agnes Waweru, a clinical oncologist at the Nairobi Hospital, lack of data on colorectal cancers to support adequate interventions and scarcity of cancer care facilities impedes care.
“We need good cancer registry and data to help us know regions where there are more cases, sexes of the patients and age for easier interventions mechanisms,” she said, adding, “cancer treatment centres should also be set up in the counties.”
She observed a change in colorectal cancers disease pattern, that used to be associated with older people, is now diagnosed among younger populations globally, adding that data can help with an intervention plan.
She added that even though complex genetic processes cause cancer, risk factors are associated with smoking, change in western diet, excess red meat consumption and physical inactivity.
“Emphasis on regular screening is vital for early diagnosis at manageable and treatable stages because colorectal cancer may not show symptoms during the early stages,” she said.
Colorectal cancers can be accurately diagnosed locally with the common test being a colonoscopy and endoscopy to find malignant tumours. Further tests, includes blood tests and CT scans for chests, abdomen and uterus.
Colorectal cancer is among the top 10 cancers in Kenya, According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer cases in Nairobi with 10.3 per cent rate with recent Globocan data revealing 3316 estimated new cases and 937 deaths in 2018. This type of cancer can start at the colon or the rectum, otherwise called the large intestine.
Healthy cells in the lining of the colon or rectum can change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumour, which can be cancerous, malignant or benign.
A cancerous or malignant tumour is a tumour that can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumour means the tumour can grow but will not spread.
Dr. Waweru says people should be wary and seek care early as soon as they witness a change in bowel habits, constipation, and bright red or very dark blood in the stool, diarrhoea, constant fatigue and discomfort in the abdomen.
She adds that colorectal cancers symptoms mimic those of many other diseases.
When the disease has spread to other organs, other symptoms may include weight loss, bone pain, yellowness of urine and eyes amongst others. Anyone with these symptoms lasting for more than two weeks should seek medical assistance for evaluation, she added.
She explains that earlier detection in stage one and two are easier to treat with very best outcomes with stage three treatment requiring chemotherapy sessions. In stage four where the disease has spread to other organs, treatments are available to shrink the tumour and relieve symptoms for the patient.
She adds that with the advances in medical therapy, some patients with stage four cancers are surviving longer with good quality of life.
Dr. Waweru adds that Nairobi hospital has significantly reduced specialist oncologist’s fees in treating colorectal cancers and has slashed costs of chemotherapy drugs by 16 per cent. In addition, the hospital is engaging pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of cancer drugs.