A new trend of tobacco smocking among the youth could lead to increased cases of cancer in the country.
Sheesha/Shisha smoking, a way of smoking tobacco through a bowl and hose or tube, is gaining popularity in clubs and bars in major cities in Kenya.
This was said by the Programs Officer at the Division of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at the Ministry of Health Dr Alfred Karagu.
Dr Karagu said that statistics available to the ministry indicate that 18% of male adults use tobacco while about 2% of adult females are practicing the vice.
“This trend of tobacco smoking is gaining popularity among the youth with a misconception that it is safer than cigarette smoking. A single session of sheesha smoking lasting between half and an hour could be equated to smoking 50-100 cigarettes.” Dr Karagu said.
This, he said, was not envisioned as a trend that could emerge in tobacco consumption adding that there needs to be a rapid assessment to determine its penetration, consumption, effects and possible ways to curb it.
According to Dr Karagu, smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer among the four leading modifiable lifestyle practices namely;
- Tobacco smoking
- Harmful use of Alcohol
- Unhealthy diets
- Physical inactivity
Statistics from the ministry indicate that more that 60% of those diagnosed with cancer in Kenya are less than 70 years of age.
Cancer being the third leading cause of morbidity and with a contribution of up to 7% of all deaths in the country has been on the rise in the recent past according the Dr Karagu.
He said this rise could be attributed to a previous focus on infectious diseases that led to allocation of most resources to the prevention and treatment of these diseases, ignoring the burden of NCDs.
“Close to 28,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year and there are 20,000 cancer related deaths every year.” Dr Karagu said.
He said that prostate cancer leads in men with 17/100,000 population new cases of the disease recorded while breast cancer leads in women where 34/100,000 population new cases are diagnosed every year.
“The ministry is also working on a new policy framework to guide the health sector for the next 20 years” He said.
He said that the ministry is carrying out a pilot survey on the HPV vaccine in Kitui County with a planned rollout by 2015.
The increase in cancer cases in the country could also be attributed to awareness creation and subsequent free screening carried out by various non-governmental organizations.
These organizations have since sought to have a unified network to spearhead awareness creation, support and care in the cancer realm.
Dubbed the Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO), the body represents cancer organizations active in cancer awareness, education, screening, prevention and care in Kenya.
KENCO’s objectives include:
- To promote cancer awareness and the exchange of information and expertise through the networking of cancer organizations across the country
- To serve as a unified advocacy body supporting the efforts of network partner organizations in their engagement with the public and the government on issues relating to cancer control
- To maintain a calendar of activities to foster strategic collaboration and minimize duplication
- To develop links locally and internationally with cancer and non-communicable diseases organizations and government agencies for the benefit of network partner organizations
- To foster opportunities for training of network partner organizations in various aspects of cancer
Below is a profile of organizations that are actively involved in the war against cancer;
Africa Cancer Foundation provides awareness programs, screening and educational materials about all cancers. It also provides cancer fact sheets and treatment information in the country.
Cancer Awareness Centre of Kenya provides awareness programs, screening and education about all cancers. It has publishes bulletins, newsletters and flyers to disseminate cancer related information and serves countrywide.
Eddah’s Hope Cancer Foundation provides awareness programs, screening and education about all cancers, targeting youth education (age 15-40) and covers Eldoret, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru.
Faraja Cancer Support Trust provides complementary therapies, support groups and education on all cancers for cancer patients and serves the Nairobi region.
HENZO Kenya provides support to patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stoma tumor cancers (CML & GIST) and serves nationwide.
Hope and Courage International provides support and education for cancer patients and cancer survivors and their families and serves Kerugoya, Nairobi and Nyeri areas.
Hope Beyond Cancer Trust provides awareness programs, screening and education about breast, cervical and prostate cancers. It also provides literature on cancer treatment and survivorship in Kiswahili, Kikuyu, Dholuo, Kikamba, Luhya and serves nationwide.
Hope for Cancer Kids provides support to childhood cancer patients and their families. It assists families to register to the National Hospital and Insurance Fund. Regions of Kenya served include Eldoret, Kisii, Machakos, Muranga, Nairobi, Nyeri and Webuye.
Kenya Cancer Association provides awareness programs, screening, advocacy and education about all cancers alongside cancer information brochures and serves nationwide.
Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association promotes education and training of health care professionals and non-health professionals, research for palliative care in Kenya, provision of technical support for palliative care service providers, initiating new service centers, advocacy, programme development and fundraising aimed at increasing access to palliative care services in the county by all Kenyans
Prostate Cancer Support Association supports prostate cancer patients, survivors and their families and serves the Nairobi region.
Stoma World Kenya provides public awareness about colorectal cancers, and support to colorectal cancer patients, survivors and their families and has served Eldoret, Kisumu, Machakos, Nairobi and Nyeri regions.
Twakutukuza Trust provides support to cancer patients, survivors and their families. It provides publication about the founder’s personal battle with cancer and serves nationwide.
Women for Cancer Early Detection & Treatment is an organization that provides awareness programs, screening and education about breast cancer and plans to include cervical cancer in the future. It also provides education and training materials and serves nationwide.
The formation of Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations is spearheaded by Mishka Kohli Cira who says that working in a unified environment would create harmony and speed up the battle against cancer in the country.