The position of Health cabinet secretary in Kenya is like a poisoned chalice. Just when the country seemed to be exhaling after containing the surge in HIV and Aids cases, we have a new scourge on our hands.
Today, contracting HIV need not be a death sentence. Unfortunately, we are now facing a health crisis of monumental proportions as cancer rears its ugly head! Unlike the HIV wave whose cause was well established and could be predicted and prevented mainly through one’s sexual behaviour, there seems to be no respite in managing cancer. The latter affects different parts of the body due to different reasons.
What’s more, the cost of treating cancer is way above what is needed to manage HIV and Aids. Further, cancer is prevalent across all age groups, in contrast to HIV whose transmission largely affects those who are sexually active. There are as many types of cancer, just as the causes.
According to data from the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022, leading cancers in men include prostate, karposi sarcoma and cancer of the oesophagus. The report notes that women are suffering more from cancers of the breast, cervix and oesophagus.
Statistics show that we are losing over 28,000 lives annually to cancer, placing the scourge as the third leading killer in the country, next to infectious and cardiovascular diseases. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
Curbing the further spiralling of cancer cases will require radical shifts in our lifestyles. Consequently, the first step is to map out the cancers that have the highest rates, and then identifying the specific elements or factors leading to the disease.
But for this to be effective, it must be accompanied by a heavy dose of behavioural change in. However, I will start with a disclaimer. The following views are not based on any concrete scientific research.
But in light of the foregoing, I have relied on anecdotal evidence from observation, and my deductions from these relationships. Given, it is a trial and error method, which seems to be the official approach, anyway!
On top of the list is diet, which could explain the high rate of cancers affecting the stomach and colon. The excessive consumption of artificial sugars, particularly in fizzy drinks, and transient fats in animal products and deep fried foods, is a major culprit.
It is claimed that cancer cells thrive best in environments rich in processed foods. Even as we occasionally indulge in fast foods, we should keep the bulk of our diets organic. Thank goodness that the government finally banned the use of plastics.
People have also been warned against heating food in microwave heaters using plastic containers. An emerging school of thought claims that consuming hot foodstuffs and liquids in heated plastics could be a major cause of cancers of the digestive system.
I also wonder whether there could be a link between colon cancer and poorly processed toilet paper. Imagine the danger posed by both dirt and chemical residues in poor quality toilet paper!
There is continuing research about the effect of radiation from mobile phones and, for example, brain tumours. Personally, I find that I usually get a headache later in the day if I put my phone near my head when in bed, even for a short period.
I have come to this conclusion over time after isolating such instances and ruling out other triggers. Going forward, we need to get out of denial and debunk some stereotypes about the main causes of cancer in Kenya.
For example, while we are quick to condemn tobacco and alcohol, we conveniently ignore the massive pollution in our major urban centres. I suggest that we also look to the East and find out how their lifestyles have impacted on their overall good health and longevity without a heavy dose of medication. Writer is the executive director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness—[email protected]