Every month of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is commemorated to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and care.
Ms Consolata Nasirumbi Ojiambo from Mundika, Bukhayos West Ward in Busia, a breast cancer survivor, narrated her story.
She says in 2020 she noticed a small swelling below her left breast, she visited one of the private health facilities in the county, but she was told it was a normal swelling that would eventually disappear, unfortunately, it did not.
After weeks of monitoring the swelling, she realized that it was still growing big, that is when she visited Busia County referral hospital, where tests were done, after months of waiting, she learned that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and it was at stage two.
“It was one evening in May 2020, after I had shown I noticed a small swelling below my left breast which was not normal. I tried applying some jelly, but there were no changes though it was not painful. In June I went to the private hospital, I was told the swelling was normal, though it was growing and that is how I visited the referral hospital,” she narrated.
At the referral, Ms Nasirubi remembers that nothing much was done to her, at the beginning, but later the blood samples were taken and tasted in Eldoret which is when she learned that she had breast cancer at stage 2.
“The swelling was growing, and in November of the same year, I went back to the referral hospital to demand my results. That is when I was sent to an oncology doctor who took my blood sample and sent it to Eldoret. After two weeks the results came back and it tasted positive for breast cancer at stage two, immediately I embarked on treatment.”
She added, “I went to Moi teaching and referral hospital in Eldoret where I was operated and all the breasts were removed and that is how I was saved. The chemotherapy and cancer medication drained me to a point where people thought I was going to die. Some members of my family abandoned me thinking that I was wasting their money yet I was going to die, I followed the doctor’s instructions on medication, and with time I recovered.”
Dr Janerose Ambuchi the director of medical services in Busia County says, breast cancer has the highest incidence among all cancers with over 2.2 million cases reported globally in 2020.
In Kenya, breast cancer is leading with 6,799 new cases recorded in 2020.
While addressing the gathering in Busia while commemorating the day Dr Ambuchi noted that breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women of reproductive age after cervical cancer.
“Reports indicate that breast Cancer is the second most common cancer among women of reproductive health followed by cervical cancer,” she said.
According to her, after the initiation of the oncology clinic at Busia county referral hospital in 2021 the number of breast cancer patients has increased to 108, adding that Busia county reports at least 4 new cancer cases every month.
“On average, there are four newly diagnosed breast cancer patients reported each month at Busia County referral hospital. Last year a total of 47 new breast cancer cases were diagnosed at Busia County referral hospital,” said Dr Ambuchi
Grace Midambo, the coordinator of non-communicable diseases in Busia county, says breast cancer like any other non-communicable disease can be addressed if patients, especially women above 40 years, come out to be screened on time.
“It is important for women above 40 years to visit health facilities and be screened in case they are found to be cancer positive and they are treated on time. During the screening we detect any signs of breast cancer and deal with it before it spreads to other parts of the body,” she noted
According to her, most cancer patients visit health facilities late, which makes it impossible to be addressed.
“Majority of those who come for screening, come late. Seventy-five percent of cancer patients visit health facilities when the disease is at stage three or four which means it has already spread to the other parts of the body making the treatment a challenge,” she said
She added, “There is a need to do a self-breast examination which will help you notice any slight change in your breast and that is when you will seek medication on time. Early cancer detections will save life.”