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PERSONALITY OF THE WEEK: Dr Catherine Nyongesa

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By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Dr Nyongesa is a clinical oncologist with experience in cancer treatment spanning more than 10 years. She is currently the acting head of department at Kenyatta National Hospital’s Cancer Treatment Centre.

The honorary lecturer at the University of Nairobi is also the first female radiation oncologist in the country.

As the world celebrates the breast cancer month this October, the award-winning doctor shares tips on how best to manage the disease.

October is the breast cancer month. Is this type of cancer a women-only affair as most people imagine?

Even though men do not have breasts like women, they have a small amount of breast tissue. As such, they too can get breast cancer.

Men get the same types of breast cancers that women do, but theirs spread more quickly to the surrounding tissues due to small amounts of breast tissue.

Breast cancer is more prevalent in women worldwide than in men.

The latter contribute only one per cent. At Texas Cancer Centre our statistics show prevalence among men to be at about three per cent.

What are some of the other most common misconceptions about cancer among Kenyans?

That Cancer is a tragic fate, punishment and a death sentence. Some people imagine that undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy would kill them.

There are those who erroneously think that surgery or needle biopsies can disturb cancer cells, causing them to spread to other parts of the body. Although some types of cancer can be contagious, they do not spread arbitrarily.

Additionally, to some people, cancer is one disease. Still, others believe that if your close relative had cancer, you will definitely contract it too. This is not always the case.

What specifically was Texas Cancer Centre established for?

Texas Cancer Centre was started in June 2010. This was in response to a wide gap for cancer treatment in Kenya and the region.

The majority of local clients were unable to promptly access specialised cancer treatment, leading to agony as families sought services overseas, usually at an added cost. Patients who were lucky to access treatment locally would normally wait for two years for radiotherapy services. This is where we came in. We treat and manage cancer by use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

What is your most memorable experience in college?

Through my four years in high school, my parents were jobless. They were unable to fully provide for me. At one time, my fellow students contributed to my school fees after sympathizing with my plight.

I was able to join university upon winning a scholarship without which life would have been very difficult. There are good people in this world who go out of their way to selflessly offer help where there is genuine need.

What advice do you wish you never heeded to, as a young person?

I wish I had never listened to pessimists who instil fear in others that one cannot flourish in life if they hail from a less fortunate background.

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I am who I am today because I had the grit and the determination to keep going after my dreams in spite of the numerous setbacks that I faced.

Share some statistics and prevalence of the common types of cancer in Kenya.

According to the latest data from Globocan (a web-based platform that provides cancer statistics), 47887 new cancer cases are reported annually in Kenya.

The report also shows that 32987 cancer patients die in Kenya every year. Breast cancer remains the most common type of cancer with 5985 cases reported annually. Prostate cancer follows with 2864 cases every year.

Do you have other interests outside cancer treatment?

I love listening to music; which is my favourite pastime. I listen to Bongo and West African music both at work and while relaxing at home. I find it highly nourishing.

Are you satisfied with the country’s progress in the fight against cancer?

We have made massive strides in the campaign against cancer over the years.

Cancer is in the health pillar among the Big 4 agenda of the government. By making cancer treatment a priority, the government has demonstrated its willingness to take on the disease in the country. The need for more investment and awareness can, however, never be overstated.

How can cancer patients live with their condition to prolong their lifespan?

The most critical aspect of cancer management is positive living. Accepting oneself is the first step. Cancer is not a means to an imminent end. There is life after diagnosis.

Secondly, a healthy lifestyle is of supreme importance. Cancer weakens the body, and eating a balanced diet, for instance, helps to recoup energy lost through the treatment process such as chemotherapy.

Ultimately, strict adherence to doctors’ recommendations and regular check-ups are necessary.

What is the role of young people in the fight against cancer?

There is a whole lot of ways in which young people can contribute to the campaign against cancer. They can train in cancer management to become cancer ambassadors and carry out advocacy work.

After all, they have the energy and enthusiasm. There is need to actively and consistently engage them in this campaign. Cancer is a collective battle that needs the honest contribution of all.

In what three fronts do you think the battle against cancer will be won?

Awareness, education and more research. We need to carry out awareness programmes with more vigour on how to live with cancer and the need to go for regular cancer screening sessions.

With informed masses, Kenya will be able to comfortably manage the disease and curtail the rate of infections.

The future is bright. But first, there is work to do. Some cancers are caused by infective agents and this can be prevented through immunization.

Among these is HPV for cervical cancer and hepatitis for liver cancer.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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