When Anyang’ Nyong’o, Medical Services Minister of Kenya, returned cancer-free to his native land in March of this year, he made a commitment to the people of Kenya. “My experience is a wake-up call for us in Kenya,” he proclaimed. Following a prostate cancer diagnosis by his Kenyan doctor, Mr. Nyong’o chose to put his life in the hands of a prostate cancer specialist in the United States. Now back in Kenya, Nyong’o is establishing the African Cancer Foundation to initiate reform in how Kenyans approach all types of cancer — from education to diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. David Samadi, Vice Chairman, Department of Urology, and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, commends Nyong’o on the African Cancer Foundation’s efforts. “Earlier this year, Mr. Nyong’o recognized and acted on the fact that his country did not yet have the expertise to fully treat prostate cancer. His decision to the come to the U.S. for life-saving treatment, and then return to Kenya and initiate real change is revolutionary,” praises Dr. Samadi. “I hope that more people from other countries will follow in his footsteps.”
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 each day. Nyong’o’s foundation does not have an easy task before them. Minimal cancer information, lack of emphasis on early detection and dated treatment options are among the biggest battles for Kenyan’s fight against prostate and other cancers. Cultural limitations are also at play. Kenyans place a large stigma on cancer, and in some areas, those diagnosed are still relying on historic, more natural healing methods. Due to these factors, most Kenyans receive their diagnosis very late, when it is considered advanced prostate cancer. Nyong’o was an exception, diligent about testing when he sensed something was wrong, despite test results to the contrary.
Dr. Samadi believes Nyong’o to be among the growing number of patient ambassadors around the world. More and more, prostate cancer patients are coming to the United States for the advanced treatment and specialized prostate cancer surgery they need. “They do their research and they know their best chances for survival are found here. The removal of the cancerous prostate and is the best way to go, in my opinion. Many international patients know that, unfortunately, their countries cannot offer them the expertise that U.S. surgeons can.” Robotic prostatectomy procedures, when performed by experts like Dr. Samadi, can drastically improve prostate cancer survival rates. Dr. Samadi has performed over 3,500 successful robotic prostate surgeries and has a cure rate of 97 percent.
Dr. Samadi believes it is important to be part of the prostate cancer solution abroad and in the U.S. and he urges Nyong’o to seek help from U.S. specialists as he furthers his foundation. “While education and screening are critical pieces of the puzzle, we must help these countries become independent in their fight against prostate cancer and all other types of cancer. That is the best way to save lives.” Providing access to technology does not solve the problem, particularly when talking about robotic surgery. Studies indicate that surgeons must perform over 1,600 robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP) procedures before achieving acceptable outcomes. Based on the technology and expertise limitations in his country, Nyong’o recognized what many in other countries are beginning to, as well: experience matters.
“Sadly, Kenya is not alone in their limited cancer-fighting resources,” notes Dr. Samadi. “More than 70 percent of cancer-related deaths worldwide are occurring in developing nations like Kenya, and these numbers must change. I continue to work with and travel to countries that are just on the cusp of the cancer treatment and advanced technology we employ in the U.S.” Dr. Samadi hopes that his hands-on instruction in other countries will give them the foundation they need to achieve expertise in the future. “Until that day,” adds Dr. Samadi, “I will continue to welcome international prostate cancer patients to the U.S. with open arms. I have a dedicated international department with compassionate staff members who recognize and appreciate all cultural differences.” Dr. Samadi’s team assists these patients with all aspects of their journey to, and treatment in, the U.S. You can learn more about Dr. Samadi’s comprehensive approach to helping patients from abroad at www.roboticoncology.com/international/ and the information on his site is available in seven different languages.Press Releases