Why I advise men to go for breast cancer checkups
When Charles Maina from Kieni area of Nyeri county was diagnosed with breast cancer early this year, he took the news with a positive attitude.
So, when the initial shock of the diagnosis wore off, he was the one comforting his doctor and son.
“The doctor who analysed my CT Scan results at the Kenyatta National Hospital Annex in Kieni was shocked and lost for words.
He called my son and his colleagues to help him deliver the bad news to me. But in response I told them cancer is not a death sentence,” said Maina.
Maina recalls visiting hospitals rarely and it never crossed his mind cancer would hit him.
At 60, he said he developed a painless lump in 2018 and visited a local hospital in Kieni and after medical examination, the doctor said it was benign.
“After a few months, the lump started to hurt and developed into a wound. I sought medication at Kijabe Mission Hospital where I was treated for some time, but the situation was worsening,” he said.
After visiting several hospitals, Maina visited KNH Annex in Kieni and when the results came out in March he was told the lump was cancerous.
According to cancer experts, less than one per cent of all breast cancer cases develop in men and only one in a thousand men develop breast cancer.
Speaking to People Daily during one of his routine checks up and radiotherapy sessions at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, he said he was referred there for specialised treatment because the cancer had advanced to stage four.
However, he said he initially struggled to come to Nairobi for the sessions due to the Covid-19 restriction movement imposed by the government in March to curb the spread of the virus.
“I used a motorcycle from Nyeri to Thika, then spent a night before figuring out how to reach KNH,” said Maina.
Maina was lucky after Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation offered him transport to KNH, easing his struggle.
Currently, Maina is undergoing radiotherapy and has already gone through seven sessions. He has three more sessions to complete.
“It’s a challenging moment, but I know I am a conqueror. I believe in God, that is where I draw my strength,” he said.
With cancer draining family finances, Maina remains thankful to National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) for catering for most of his medication cost.
“NHIF has really helped me. It has saved my family a huge financial burden that is cancer treatment,” he said.
Maina has resolved to lead an awareness campaign to help men appreciate breast cancer does not affect women only.
Thorn in the flesh
“I am battling breast cancer, therefore, men should constantly undergo check ups. The secret to conquer cancer is early diagnosis,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Health data, breast cancer remains the thorn in the flesh of many Kenyans with the country recording 5,900 cases annually.
It accounts for 12.5 per cent of all cancer cases in the country and 20.9 per cent among women.
Being the third leading cause of death in the country after infectious and cardiovascular diseases, the annual incidence of cancer is more than 47,000 cases and 32,000 deaths annually.
Speaking during the launch of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020 at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman expressed concern that early detection, awareness and screening of breast cancer remain low.
“Only 25 per cent of women aged 15-49 years have performed a self-breast examination (SBE) with 14 per cent having a clinical breast examination,” he said.
Aman said as an emerging economy, Kenya is experiencing an epidemiological transition where, for a long time, the greatest health burden has been infectious or communicable diseases.
“The burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory conditions is on the rise,” he said.
Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer include a painless lump or thickening of breast tissue, changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling, nipple changes such as redness or scaling or a nipple that begins to turn inward.