Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cervical Cancer in Kenyan News

Take a look at this Kenyan news story! Your Story: A Woman's Battle with Cancer
(don't be deterred by the Swahili parts,you can still understand what is going on from the English). It tells the story of a woman suffering from cervical cancer, discussing her lack of access to treatment and the toll that it has taken on her family life. The video was shot in the Mukuru slum of Nairobi where our partner organization U-Tena is based, and its super-relevant to U-Tena’s work for lots of reasons besides the fact that cervical cancer is a huge reproductive health issue. Read on!

According to an article in one of Kenya’s national newspapers, The Standard, cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer among Kenyan women; at least 2,635 women are diagnosed in Kenya every year, and almost the same number die. Millions, however, are at extremely high-risk given that 40% of women nationwide are estimated to have HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. Unfortunately, less than 5% of Kenyan women are screened for the cancer regularly, meaning they only receive medical attention after their cancer has progressed to more advanced stages.  

Because access to prevention measures such as the HPV vaccine and education about risks is incredibly restricted by poverty, and since co-factors such as HIV increase the likelihood that HPV will lead to cancer, cervical cancer is very much a social-justice issue. In response to the generally-high prevalence of cancer nationwide, the Kenyan government is seeking to create a Cancer Prevention and Control Institute to better coordinate the monitoring, treatment and care of people living with cancer, and is planning to carry out public information and in-school education campaigns on prevention and treatment. Parliament has also recently passed a bill making cancer treatment free. However, in the experience of the woman in the video, the necessary medical supplies are neither available nor accessible. At the Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, a hospital treating mostly low-income Kenyans, a lack of supplies means very long waits and multiple visits—a prohibitive burden for her; seeking treatment at private hospitals or in neighboring Uganda is out of reach.

On a more hopeful note, the high toll cancer is taking on Kenyans has stirred responses in civil society. For example, after his own struggle with cancer a Kenyan dentist has dedicated himself to helping establish a Palliative Cancer Foundation to provide medical, social, and psychological care to impoverished cancer patients. An American NGO has also set up cervical cancer-screening facilities in a different part of Kenya How can community-based organizations such as U-Tena make a difference on these issues? What is our role as students looking on from thousands of miles away?

Here's all the links in case you missed them in the text:
Your Story: A Woman's Battle with CancerWHO Wants War on Cervical Cancer Intensified
MPs Root for Establishment of Cancer Institute
Cancer Experience Inspires Charity
Cases of Cervical Cancer on the Rise<---this is the video that talks about the American organization...really worth a watch too!