Earlier this year I talked about Kenyan Medical Services Minister, Anyang’ Nyong’o, traveling to the U.S. for life-saving, prostate cancer treatment. Following a diagnosis in his country which, it’s important to note, came only after his own persistence that something was not right, Nyong’o knew his best chance for survival was to head here. Recognizing his own country’s limitations, Nyong’o did what many in other countries are now doing, he chose a prostate cancer specialist in the United States with expertise that far surpassed his country’s offerings.
Since his return to Kenya, Nyong’o is turning his experience into a force for change. He founded the African Cancer Foundation, with the intentions of increasing the distribution of cancer information, emphasizing early screening and updating treatment options in Kenya. Reform in these areas will not be easy for Nyong’o and his group; Kenyans place a large stigma on cancer patients and, in some areas, still prefer natural healing methods. As a result, conquering late diagnosis of prostate and other cancers will be a big part of the foundation’s efforts, but it’s a fight worth fighting. In developing countries like Kenya, more deaths are caused by cancer than TB, malaria, HIV and AIDS combined. Kenyan statistics indicate 18,000 new cancer diagnoses each year, of which 50 people die every day.
It is my hope that, upon learning of their prostate cancer, more men in other countries will travel to the U.S. as patient ambassadors. Today, many countries simply do not have the advanced skills that some U.S. surgeons have in treating prostate cancer, particularly in the case of robotic prostatectomy procedures. Our robotic technology affords us great advantages in the precise removal of the prostate and surrounding cancer. But technology alone is not the champion. That’s why I continue to travel to other countries in the early stages of robotic surgery to share my knowledge and expertise face-to-face. As surgeons in these countries are able to perform more and more robotic surgeries their level of proficiency will grow. Until that day, I welcome men from all countries to my practice. Treating international prostate cancer patients and helping their families through the entire journey is the number one goal of my international department. And as these men return to their native countries, cancer-free with almost no detriment to their sexual or urinary functions, others will learn of their successes and follow suit.
I wish Mr. Nyong’o and the African Cancer Foundation Godspeed. And as their reach expands and their efforts increase, I urge them to focus on improving the expertise of their in-country surgeons treating prostate and other cancers. Education and early screening are, of course, the first critical steps. But the ability to eradicate prostate cancer in their country, on their own, saves Kenyan patients valuable time and ensures quality of life for their citizens well into the future. To achieve success, it is in Kenya’s best interest to employ the help of U.S. cancer specialists and surgical experts who can guide them to cancer treatment expertise.