Lung Cancer In Kenya – An overview of Risk Factors, symptoms, diagnosis And Treatment


Why Lung cancer is an important Health Concern

Lung cancer is a significant health concern in Kenya, with a high incidence and mortality rate. It is the most common cancer worldwide, and developing countries like Kenya bear a disproportionate burden, accounting for over 58% of cases. This blog post will explore the prevalence, risk factors, prevention strategies, screening modalities, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer in the Kenyan context.

Key Points/Summary

  • Lung cancer is a major health issue in Kenya, with an estimated 1200 new cases and over 800 deaths annually
  • Over 60% of those affected by lung cancer in Kenya are below the age of 70, and 70-80% are diagnosed at an advanced stage
  • Nearly 10 million non-smokers in Kenya are at risk of lung cancer due to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke
  • Risk factors include genetic mutations, smoking, radiation therapy, asbestos exposure, and occupational exposure to heavy metals
  • Screening and early detection are crucial for improving outcomes, but access to these services remains limited in Kenya

Prevalence/Incidence of lung cancer in Kenya

Lung cancer is a significant contributor to the cancer burden in Kenya, with an estimated 1200 new cases and over 800 deaths attributed to the disease each year. Over 60% of those affected are below the age of 70, and 70-80% are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This highlights the need for improved awareness, screening, and early detection efforts in the country.

What Leads to Lung Cancer – The Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of lung cancer in Kenya, including:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Smoking
  • Second-hand smoke exposure
  • Radiation therapy
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Occupational exposure to heavy metals and other carcinogens

Addressing these risk factors is crucial for reducing the incidence of lung cancer in Kenya.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of lung cancer may include shortness of breath, changes to the voice, chest pain, coughing or spitting up blood, and unexplained weight loss. It is important for individuals experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention promptly for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Prevention Strategies

To reduce the risk of lung cancer in Kenya, it is essential to:

  • Quit smoking or never start
  • Avoid second-hand smoke exposure
  • Limit occupational exposure to lung carcinogens
  • Promote public awareness about the risks and prevention of lung cancer

Screening Modalities

Screening for lung cancer is crucial for early detection and improved outcomes. However, access to screening services remains limited in Kenya. Screening tests may include chest x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, lung function tests, biopsies, and sputum cytology.

Diagnosis Of Lung Cancer

If lung cancer is suspected based on symptoms or screening tests, further tests are conducted to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type and stage of the cancer. These tests may include imaging studies, biopsies, and lung function tests.

Laboratory Methods in Lung Cancer Diagnosis


  • Needle Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the lung, nearby lymph nodes, or both using a needle under local anaesthesia. This is the most common method for confirming lung cancer diagnosis[1][4].
  • Thoracoscopy: A thoracoscope is used to take a tissue sample from the lungs under general anaesthesia. This method is often used for more invasive procedures and can provide large samples[2][4].
  • Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscope is used to take a tissue sample from the airways under local anaesthesia. This method is often used for biopsies of tumours in the outer part of the lungs[1][4].
Lung Cancer- Diagnostic modalities


  • Histological Analysis: The biopsy sample is examined under a microscope to identify the type of lung cancer, such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma[1][2][4].


  • Cytological Diagnosis: Cytology involves examining cells from the lungs, lymph nodes, or other areas to diagnose lung cancer. This method is often used in conjunction with biopsy[2][4].
  • EBUS-FNA (Endobronchial Ultrasound-Fine Needle Aspiration): EBUS-FNA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses ultrasound to guide a needle to collect cells from the lungs and lymph nodes[2][4].


  • Immunohistochemical Staining: This technique uses antibodies to identify specific proteins in the cancer cells, such as PD-L1, which can help determine the best treatment options[1][5].

Read More >>>> Understanding Immunohistochemistry (IHC)

Molecular Pathology

  • Molecular Testing: Molecular testing involves examining the genetic material of the cancer cells to identify specific genetic mutations, such as EGFR, ALK, ROS1, and KRAS, which can guide targeted therapy[1][2][5].
  • Liquid Biopsy: Liquid biopsy involves examining blood or other bodily fluids for circulating tumour cells or DNA, which can help monitor treatment response and detect recurrences[5].

Other Diagnostic Techniques

  • Sputum Cytology: Sputum cytology involves examining mucus coughed up from the lungs for cancer cells. This method is often used for early detection and can be more effective for certain types of lung cancer[3][4].
  • PET Scan: PET scans use radioactive substances to create images of the body, which can help identify tumours and monitor treatment response[1][4].

Multidisciplinary Approach

  • Multidisciplinary Team: A multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including thoracic surgeons, oncologists, and pathologists, works together to develop individualized diagnostic and therapeutic plans for patients with lung cancer[2][4].
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): SOPs are established to ensure efficient transportation of tissue samples and biopsies to the diagnostic and molecular pathologists, reducing the risk of errors and improving diagnostic accuracy[2][4].

Staging and Treatment

  • Staging: Staging involves determining the extent of the cancer, including whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. This information helps guide treatment decisions and prognosis[1][2][4].
  • Treatment: Treatment options for lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. The choice of treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health[1][2][4].

Treatment and Management

Treatment for lung cancer in Kenya depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy. Access to these treatments can be challenging in resource-limited settings, highlighting the need for improved healthcare infrastructure and funding for cancer care in Kenya.


The information provided on this medical blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or taking any actions based on the information provided on this blog. The authors and publishers of this blog are not liable for any errors or omissions in the content or for any actions taken based on the information provided.

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