A Cancer information, education and communication material (IEC) is a guide package that entails a guide book, two sided fact sheet and a flip chart. The materials are both in Kiswahili and English in order to reach a larger audience of cancer patients, caregivers and participants who work closely with cancer patients. The information gives both the patients and the care givers standard information in regards to prevention and control of cancer.
According to National Cancer Control Strategy (2017-2022), in Kenya cancer as a disease ranks third as a cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. In 2012 there were an estimated 37,000 new cancer cases and 28,500 cancer deaths in Kenya. The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next two decades.
For this reason, Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO) a network that represents community-based cancer organizations active in cancer awareness, education, screening, prevention and patient support in Kenya, held a Cancer IEC materials training to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to use the materials. The participants were enlightened on ways to communicate with cancer patients and breaking bad news. “Effective communication is a core clinical skill,” added Helen Matera a clinical navigator at Kenyatta National Hospital. Among the participants who graced the training program was Joseph Mureithi a cancer survivor for 30 years. “When I was diagnosed at the age of 23 years, it was a nightmare but thanks to proper treatment and support I have been able to live a cancer free life.” said Joseph.
‘What you need to know about cancer’ is a guide book for patients and caregivers that has seven chapters that include: What is cancer, signs and symptoms, treatment, palliative care and pain management, diet and lifestyle management and finally being a care giver.
Cancer happens when the cells in our body start to grow and divide out of control to form a malignant tumor. The most common cancers in Kenya in men include: Prostrate, Esophagus, Kaposi Sarcoma, Stomach and Colorectum while the most cancers in women include: cervix and breast and stomach, Different people experience different signs and symptoms according to the type of cancer but the most common symptoms may comprise of unexplained weight loss, unexplained pain, change of skin in color and tone, fever, fatigue, unusual bleeding, lump or swelling. Risk factors of being diagnosed with cancer will vary from age, sex, family history and lifestyle.
According to the guide book, treatment of cancer works best when one is diagnosed with the illness at an early stage. The common treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Often the patient goes through two or more treatments to get the best results. Palliative care and pain management is fundamental in the patients’ lives in order for them to live comfortably. This normally starts at the time of diagnosis. Caregivers are asked to participate actively in ensuring cancer patients are contented during the process. Patients are advised to maintain a good nutrition and lifestyle in order to be healthy. Lastly caregivers are recommended to keep the patient involved in planning their care and disclose to the patient what one knows. The caregivers are encouraged to focus on things they can do best and not try to blame themselves and move on.
“We need to come together and fight this animal called cancer because an informed patient will follow instructions and live a good life” said Grace Omulogoli, special care unit, Kenyatta National Hospital.
The cancer educational materials were launched in January, 2017 by Dr. Cleopa Kilonzo Mailu, Cabinet secretary Ministry of Health. The materials were prepared by the Kenya MOH with technical support from John Hopkins Centre for Communication Programs and the American Cancer Society. The materials will be distributed to different organizations in order to sensitize everyone on the importance of effective communication in regards to cancer.