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New lease of life as KU hospital conducts breast reconstruction

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 01:30 | By
Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital. PHOTO/Facebook/kureferral

Survivors of breast cancer have a reason to smile as reconstruction surgery starts at Kenyatta University Teaching Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) this week.

The rare operation in a public hospital will see women who had lost their breasts to cancer regain their confidence after getting a chance to have the organ reconstructed locally.

However, the hospital is calling on insurers and government to consider financing the costly breast reconstruction programme as it is not cosmetic, but a key factor in recovery.

Speaking during an international symposium for doctors and medical experts at the hospital, the Board Chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda said at least 10 women will undergo the procedure at the facility starting this week.

Mugenda pointed out that although the reconstruction process is costly, it is necessary to help survivors overcome the stigma of living without the organ, which affects the quality of their lives.

Screened for cancer

She added that the hospital has screened 82,000 cases of cancer since 2020, out of which 2,500 were breast cancer patients who present their condition at Stage 3 and 4 hence necessitating mastectomy.

“A lot of the women usually don’t know what to do after the surgery, they do not have the knowledge or the resources and therefore as one of the best cancer centres in the country, we are thinking about how to help them get their lives back by doing breast reconstruction,” said Mugenda.

The Chairperson said the institution has brought medical experts from Canada, US, Argentina, Italy and Ghana among other countries to team up with local doctors in conducting the operations.

Health procedure

Prof Mugenda put a strong case for insurance cover for breast reconstruction, saying it should not be viewed as esthetics, but a vital health procedure for the cancer survivors.

“It’s about health, not esthetics or the way one looks, so it is very important for the National Health Insurance Scheme and other insurance companies to consider covering the programme. I am sure the Cabinet Secretary for Health supports this,” said the chairperson.

She added that more Kenyans should be encouraged to go for early cancer screening to avoid situations where people are diagnosed with the disease in the late stages when chances of survival are very slim.

“There have been at least 2,500 to 3,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed at our facility, most of which were at stage 3 and 4 which is rather sad. We would wish for a situation where they come at Stages 1 or 2 or even when there is no cancer at all,” said Mugenda.

Dr Josiah Moki, a consultant breast oncoplastic surgeon at KUTRRH, said the hospital has experienced younger breast cancer patients who present their condition at late stages but disappear after diagnosis for fear of mastectomy.

The foreign experts led by Dr Andrew Pusic of US and Dr Federico Flaherty from Argentina both of whom hailed the breast reconstruction initiative at KUTRRH.

“This is inspiring and impressive and will go a long way to bring the lives of many women cancer survivors back on track,” said Dr Pusic.

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