By Fridah Okachi
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Kenya. According to the Ministry of the Health as of 2020 there were an estimated 6,799 cases of patients diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 5,985 in 2018.
Most cases are detected in level five hospitals and during free cancer screening days. In Dagoretti South, Damaris Luvusi, 58 old, a mother of two, says she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 in one free medical checkup here in Nairobi.
“I was listening to a radio one morning, then I heard there is free cancer screening at Nairobi hospital. I had to go because anytime I could touch my breast, I felt like I had a stone inside it,” said Damaris.
After the screening, she was diagnosed. However, the lack of money forced her to use ginger and garlic hoping to take away the pain that would cost her over one million per year.
Despite her struggles with the illness, she developed blood pressure and ended up suffering a stroke. Research by the Ministry of Health indicates that breast cancer is a contributor to premature deaths as it occurred a decade earlier in Kenya, with the majority of patients aged between 35-50.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a mother of two hoped to engage in music in 2013, one of her songs used during Kenya at 50 celebrations known as Amani kote.
She ventured into music hoping to earn money for her treatment, but that was not the case.
“I had hoped that they would pay me some money so that I could be taken to the hospital for treatment. However, it was a shock to receive a call from the organizers that my song was used to promote me. I have a good voice and my talent has been singing. Look at me now I am suffering, and even the small business I had opened is closed now because of Covid 19. The Grace of God and mercy that’s why am live here up to date,” she said.
Damaris continued with her music passion but nothing fruitful has come out of it. At some point, she took a loan of Sh20, 000 to record music but she defaulted. Her property was confiscated leaving her with no hope of testing for breast cancer. She now relies on garlic and onions to help contain the pain.
The Ministry of Health has developed a Breast Cancer Screening and Early Diagnosis Action Plan 2021-2025, whose goal is to ensure women with breast cancer are diagnosed early to increase chances of cure.
Through joint actions in implementing the identified priority activities, review of progress, and shared accountability, it is anticipated that breast cancer mortality can be reduced by 2.5 percent annually until 2040, averting nearly 1,000 premature deaths.
This story was produced by Mtaani Radio in partnership with Code for Africa, Kenya Community Media Network and the Catholic Media Council with support from the German Cooperation as a part of the Our County Our Responsibility project.