A month after Kibra Member of Parliament Kenneth Okoth revealed that he has cancer, he has tried to keep Kenyans abreast of his condition.
Mr Okoth revealed that he was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer, adding that the disease cannot be cured but only managed.
On Tuesday, the 41-year-old legislator, responding to a tweet by a person who asked how he was doing, readily gave an update.
“Napambana na hali yangu kabisa (I am dealing with my condition). Chemo drugs are brutal on the skin and immunity system,” he said.
Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses one or more drugs as part of a standardised regimen. It may be given to cure the disease, to prolong life or to reduce symptoms.
“I was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, with metastases to the liver,” he told a local daily.
For over a year, he said, he had symptoms of ulcers, and sometimes of bacterial infections, for which he was treated. At some point, he was even given medication to manage stress.
By the time his doctors ordered advanced scans, the disease had already reached stage four.
Even as cancer treatment improves and survival rates go up, so, too, does the number of people afflicted by the deadly disease.
New data suggest that the global burden has risen to 18.1 million cases, which are predicted to reach 29.5 million by 2040.
Last year, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recorded 9.6 million cancer deaths.
According to WHO’s latest global data, one in five men and one in six women develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in eight men and one in 11 women die from the disease.
The cancer burden is increasing, a trend WHO attributes to population growth, ageing, late detection and screening.
While the international agency notes that lung and female breast cancers are the leading types worldwide, cancer experts in Kenya predict a shift in pattern as cancers of the food pipe and stomach are increasingly ravaging young people and quickly becoming top killers.
In its Globocan report that analyses new cases and deaths among men and women, the IARC notes that oesophagus cancer kills 4,354 Kenyans every year, overtaking cervical, breast, stomach and prostate cancers.
Colorectal cancer symptoms depend on the size and location of the condition. Some common symptoms include changes in bowel habits, changes in stool consistency, blood in the stool and abdominal discomfort.
“These symptoms, however, differ depending on whether the cancer is detected in the patient’s right or left side of the colon,” explains Dr Andrew Odhiambo, an oncologist at Kenyatta National Hospital and Nairobi Radiotherapy and Cancer Centre.
For instance, he says, if the cancer is on the left side of the colon, patients are likely to spot blood in their stool. This is because the left side of the colon is closer to the rectum than the right side.
“Patients who have the cancer on the right side will often suffer from fatigue, weight loss and anaemia. This is because they are silently losing blood, which is not spotted in their stool since the right side of the colon is far from the rectum,” Dr Odhiambo said.
Late diagnosis is a problem for many cancer patients.