My name is Veronicah, a young dentist who recently graduated and currently an intern. As we commemorate the World Cancer awareness day, my mind runs around with the thought of Cancer as a current global burden. In a ‘mortality’ conference I attended three weeks ago at a hospital institution, all 5 deaths which occurred in the month of December 2022 were cancer related.
What I am well acquainted with is Oral squamous cell carcinoma, the 12th commonest cancer around the world which can occur at any site (probably attributed to the fact that the mouth is my major workplace). There are other forms of cancers in the oral and maxillofacial region though, which can be odontogenic and non- odontogenic.
An acute flash back I now have falls back to an afternoon surgery session we had in my fifth and final year in school. During that afternoon, I was to present a case pertaining to a newly diagnosed adeno-carcinoma of the floor of the mouth, first to a post graduate (student pursuing masters in oral and maxillofacial surgery), and then to the consultant on the ground as was protocol. The words I took home from the conclusion were, “We need to help her. These lesions progress very fast. Send for the following scans which she must bring within two weeks. We must help her. We have a good prognosis upon intervention because the tumor is at an early stage.” We then moved on to the next case.
I did not hear from the patient for a very long time…not that something bad had happened, but because she never came with a load of CT scans she had been sent to come with after 2 weeks, she probably took a little bit longer. The scans were needed to reach a definitive treatment plan. She was never the only patient who took ‘ages’ before returning with/ without investigations. At another public hospital, I also got a chance to see how patients were scheduled for histological biopsies, but never showed up for the appointments simply because they never had the KES. 5,000 for the biopsy, or the KES. 8, 000 for the CT scan.
The fact is that cancer is a rapidly progressing disease. Early stages of Cancer have a better prognosis and response to treatment as opposed to late stages. However, radiological and histological examinations are key for these decisions to be made. Earlier is better… Cancer is a menace, but adding on to the fact that many people in our country cannot afford the essential services that can aid in intervention of the disease is a painful blow.
My hope therefore is that we can have collaborations between the national, county governments, and clinicians including radiologists and pathologists to strategize on how these services can be provided at ease to patients who are already dealing with a lot more. This, as again every Kenyan advocates for regular medical check- up, healthy lifestyles, screening, vaccination where possible, and an immediate visit to a hospital facility if suspicion arises, in the fight against Cancer. Because as I said before, EARLIER IS BETTER.
Article written by Veronicah Orina. Veronicah Orina is a young female Dental officer intern, currently stationed at Defence Forces Memorial Hospital. She recently graduated from the University of Nairobi Dental School. She is passionate about clinical work, research, and all interactions that involve a link between the two. She enjoys community work, and writing in its entirety. She is an oral health champion who aspires to impact change in society in both small and big ways; inside and outside the field of Dentistry.