By Samwel Doe Ouma@samweldoe
Patients diagnosed with brain tumours can seek high quality, specialised and affordable treatments locally with the best possible clinical outcomes, a consultant Neurosurgeon has said.
According to Dr. Michael Augustus Magoha, a consultant neurosurgeon, lack of information on availability of specialists to treat and manage brain tumours has led most patients diagnosed with brain tumours to seek treatment abroad.
He said patients could avoid the financial burden associated with seeking treatment abroad by undergoing surgery locally, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
“Management of brain tumours is expensive globally, costing approximately between Sh60,000 to Sh2 million abroad compared Sh150,000 to Sh200,000 locally,” Dr. Magoha said.
Locally, treatment options include open craniotomy, which involves opening a hole in the head, and endoscopic assisted craniotomy. Neuronavigation, using stealth for deep-seated tumours, is available in two hospitals.
“We also do awake craniotomy in selected patients and all these treatment options are available locally,” he said.
Over exposure to ionizing radiation like cell towers and power plants, smoking and some rare inherited condition are risk factors associated linked to developing cancer in the brain, Magoha noted.
“Some can develop during development in uterus because of exposure to things that would cause exudation stress.”
Brain cancer is a disease of the brain in which malignant cells arise in the brain tissue, multiplying in an uncontrolled fashion. The cells grow to form a mass of cancer tissue also called tumours that interferes with the brain’s muscle control, sensation, memory and other normal body functions.
Dr. Magoha expounded that there are adequate diagnostic equipment to manage brain tumours, saying the country is improving its infrastructure, technology and training of specialists.
“People don’t go for brain tumour screening and as a country we lack a surveillance program to document the different types of tumours,” he added.
According to the Global Cancer Observatory (Globocan) there were over 48,000 new cancer cases in 2018, with at least 33,000 succumbing to cancer annually in Kenya.
A report by the National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NCI-K), recently tabled in the National Assembly, stated that at least 90 people die because of cancer every day.
Dr. Magoha said there are 100 different types of brain tumours classified based on different cell types and different exposure patterns caused by multifactorial carcinogenesis.
Unfortunately, like most cancers in other parts of the body, the exact cause of brain cancer is unknown, a person may develop a growth in the brain, either benign or malignant, he explains.
The most common primary brain tumours are glioblastoma multiforme, meningiomas, and medulloblastomas affecting children between 2 to 5 years. There are also Metastasis tumours mostly common in people above 55 years.
According to Dr. Magoha some tumours have no symptoms until they get large and start to cause a rapid decline of health. He cautioned people to be wary of persistent headaches lasting over several weeks and not responding to remedies.
A general feeling of fatigue, nausea, seizures (convulsions) a change in behaviour or memory loss or some loss of other body function, for instance, vision or speech.
He explained, “Symptoms depend on which part of the brain the tumour is located and as such, the symptoms can be quite diverse.”
Tumours are classified from grade one to four with grade one and two classified as benign while three and four are malignant.
“Tumours composed of cancer cells are called malignant tumours, and those composed of mainly non-cancerous cells are called benign tumours,” he said, adding that, “Cancer cells that develop from brain tissue are called primary brain tumours while tumours that spread from other body sites to the brain are termed metastatic brain tumours.”
Malignant tumours can grow and spread aggressively, overpowering healthy cells by taking their space, blood, and nutrients. “Grade three and four tumours can reoccur even after removing it.”