Cancer is a constellation of over two hundred diseases. While they have common characteristics, they are very different from each other. This makes it difficult to isolate or treat.
Globally, Lung Cancer has the highest prevalence. Smoking, environmental pollution, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity are major cancer risk factors worldwide.
Cancers are also a part of the four shared risk factors for other non-communicable diseases. Approximately 15 out of 100 cancer cases diagnosed in 2012 were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Hepatitis C virus, Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B virus.
Chronic infections like Hepatitis B and C virus and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.
However, the epidemiology of cancers is patterned around the sexes; while women are most prone to breast cancer, colorectal cancer and cancer of the lungs in this order, men are most likely to come down with prostate cancer, followed by cancer of the lungs, then colorectal.
Furthermore, the incidence is also geographically diverse, for instance, Americans suffer more skin cancers than Africans. Africa records the lowest cases of leukaemia, while North America with 9 cases out of every 100,000 records the highest incidences based on WHO 2014 statistics.
Receiving the diagnosis of cancer can be a frightening thing. The good news is that there are more options today than there ever was in the treatment of cancer.
Cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. It accounted for 8.8 million deaths in 2015.
Cancer refers to abnormal growth of cells which may occur in any part of the body. They are classified as either benign or malignant. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of:
- Lung (1.69 million deaths)
- Liver (788 000 deaths)
- Colorectal (774 000 deaths)
- Stomach (754 000 deaths)
- Breast (571 000 deaths)
Benign cancers are usually not invasive and are treatable but malignant cancers (as the name implies) are invasive and terminal.
Early detection and commencement of treatment in both forms give a better prognosis.
Cancer can be better prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle; balanced diet, regular exercise, avoiding pollutants, adequate rest and stress management among others.
About one-third of all cancers can be prevented. This underscores the importance of regulatory measures, as well as health campaigns that advocate for physical activity, healthy diet, HPV vaccination, controlled access to and against tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol.
Behavioural changes and lifestyle that sees an increase in consumption of nutritional and healthy diets, engaging in daily exercise or physical activities, limiting or reducing exposure to tobacco smoke, reducing consumption of soda and sweetened drinks, maintaining a consistently healthy weight, participating in cancer screening or getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B are all measures that could keep one at less risk from cancer –the second leading cause of global death.
Insurers ditch Nairobi Women’s Hospital following cost inflation scandal
Health insurers in Kenya have severed ties with the Nairobi Women’s Hospital following a damning exposé that revealed a widespread conspiracy to inflate patient bills and prolong admissions unnecessarily. The drastic decision follows the publishing of a number of Whatsapp messages from the hospital’s staff group on Twitter by @Owaahh.
In the leaked messages from Nakuru Hyrax branch WhatsApp group, immense pressure is seen to be put on doctors working at the establishment by their superiors to prolong the admission of patients to meet hourly, daily and monthly financial targets. In some instances, doctors were given a few hours to meet their patient number targets by the chief executive officer of the Nakuru Hyrax branch, Dr Felix Wanjala. They also show how the revenue, commissions, admissions and discharge numbers were actively monitored throughout the day and night by Dr Wanjala.
Doctors who failed to meet targets or seemed to discharge patients too soon would be reprimanded on the group and asked to ‘manage’ their patient numbers. In one message, the hospital’s COO, Eunice Munyigi, admonishes a doctor for discharging too many patients. Her message read, “Ruku, yesterday you discharged 14, today planned 12, this is not sustainable. Urgently fix. 🙋♂️” In yet another message on the group, she writes, “Victoria 13 discharges are many kindly manage.”
The branch’s CEO also participated in hounding doctors about their patient admission numbers. In one message on the Nakuru group, he wrote, “how did we end up at 18 discharges from 10 planned. 😕”
From forwarded messages captured in the leaked screenshots, it is apparent that the hospital, which has nine branches across the country, tracked targets cumulatively and in each of the branches. Pressure was then exerted at branch level to increase revenue by any means.
Following a special meeting held on Monday evening, the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) decided that the underwriters would not honour any claims from the hospital. Subsequently, UAP Insurance, AAR Insurance, CIC Insurance and Old Mutual released their own statements confirming the suspension of their services as of 5th February to the medical services provider pending resolution of the scandal. Insurers account for the largest proportion of the hospital’s revenue, as high as eighty per cent in some branches.
In response to the allegations, the hospital issued a statement on Tuesday, 3rd February, promising to conduct an internal investigation and cooperate with an investigation being carried out by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board.
The statement read, “… we have noted with a lot of concern reports appearing in various media platforms in the recent past suggesting that there is some systematic approach by the hospital to unfairly generate revenue from patients. Although we don’t believe this is the case, and in fact it is antithetical to our foundational principles, we take these allegations very seriously and are conducting an internal review as well as cooperating with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board as they carry out their independent review.”
Through its chairperson, Dr Eva Njenga, the medical board said that they would reveal their findings on the hospital’s conduct within a month.
China Southern aircraft quarantined in Nairobi over coronavirus scare
Acting on an anonymous tip via a phone call to the police, Kenya Port Health officials grounded and quarantined a China Southern Airlines aircraft that landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi at 7:30 am on Wednesday morning.
According to an airport official, two passengers on board the aircraft exhibited signs of illness, triggering the tip off. The aircraft was held on the tarmac as soon as it landed and all those aboard the aircraft were prevented from disembarking until port health officials had conducted a comprehensive screening. All passengers and crew were later released at about 9:30 am.
The airline operates two weekly direct flights to Nairobi from Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province where 661 cases of coronavirus have been reported so far. Moreover, the province recently reported an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of the bird flu virus, H5N1, which can be transmitted to humans. China Southern also operates two weekly flights between Nairobi and Guangzhou City, the capital of south China’s Guangdong Province.
In a bid to reduce the risk of the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Kenya Airways last week suspended flights to and from China indefinitely. The carrier, which operates direct flights to Guangzhou, said it is monitoring the situation with Kenya’s health and foreign ministries.
At the time of going to print, the Ministry of Health had not responded to queries as to whether they would take more stringent measures as regards allowing access to foreign airlines from China access into the country.
Ugandan charity group recalls condoms over poor quality concerns
Marie Stopes Uganda told reporters that the two affected batches each contained “around 400,000” condoms
Global health charity Marie Stopes said Wednesday it had recalled hundreds of thousands of faulty condoms on sale in Uganda, where HIV rates are among the highest in the world.
The recall followed a warning from Uganda’s National Drug Authority (NDA) that the Life Guard brand condoms had failed manufacturing “quality tests” because they contained holes and may burst.
The affected condoms were manufactured by India-based MHL Healthcare in April 2019 and have an expiry date of April 2024, the government regulator said.
Marie Stopes Uganda spokesman David Kamu told reporters on Wednesday that the two affected batches each contained “around 400,000” condoms.
Earlier reports had suggested millions of condoms could have been involved but NDA spokesman Fred Ssekyana told reporters the figure was below one million.
Marie Stopes Uganda said more than half of the condoms of concern had been recalled.
“While the LifeGuard brand follows strict quality controls, unfortunately, two recent batches have fallen short of the quality we demand,” the charity’s country director, Carole Sekimpi, said in a statement Tuesday.
Marie Stopes is the largest and most specialised sexual reproductive health organisation in Uganda, the charity says on its website.
According to UNAIDS, 1.4 million Ugandans are living with HIV.
Last year 53,000 people were newly infected with the disease in the country, the UN agency said.