According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kenya records 47,887 new cancer cases annually — about 130 daily. In 2012 it recorded 40,000 new cases and 27,000 deaths annually.
Kibra Member of Parliament (MP) Ken Okoth has become one of the statistics, now battling stage four colorectal cancer with metastases to the liver.
“I was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer with metastases to the liver,” said the 41-year old legislator as quoted by a local daily.
Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer and colon cancer, is the development of cancer from the colonor rectum (parts of the large intestine).
It is estimated that 50 per cent of colorectal cancer patients develop metastasis disease of the liver, which are tumour growths in the liver.
For over a year, the MP was being treated for ulcers and bacterial infections, and at times being given stress management pills. By the time he was diagnosed, the cancer had grown to stage four.
Despite going through some radio- and chemotherapies, the MP will have to take medicine for the rest of his life, each day.
“I will be using chemotherapy tablets that I can take every morning. Because my disease was discovered at a very advanced stage; it cannot be cured. It can only be managed,” says Okoth.
He terms himself as a lucky Kenyan who can afford his medication, saying that many die for lack of medication since most cases cannot be treated locally. For his specialised liver treatment, he will be heading to Europe where his wife hails.
“My wife is from Europe, where the cost is more affordable and I could get a residence permit quickly for the duration of the treatment. Sadly, not everyone is as lucky; we need to make cancer care in Kenya a national priority,” he says.
This comes as the world marks the World Cancer Day tomorrow (Monday) February 4.
Okoth says imported cancer drugs should be zero rated and value added tax on equipment like computerised tomography (CT) scans removed.
“The cost of cancer treatment is very expensive. Many families go into bankruptcy and sell all their investments to have it. One of the major expenses is the cost of moving away from home closer to your place of treatment and the lost income of a family member who becomes the primary caregiver,” says Okoth.
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