Treating Cancer in Africa

Dr. Francine Kouya, Oncologist in Cameroon

Dr. Kouya from Mbingo Baptist Hospital, Cameroon, will be studying cancer medicine in South Africa with a partial scholarship from African Mission Healthcare Foundation.

Tell us about yourself
I am a Cameroonian from the French zone. French is my first language, and English is my second language.

I became a doctor, through my father, who was a nurse. He saw my passion, encouraged and supported me in this field.

Why are you interested in oncology?
Well, when I joined the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services in 2002, we were facing this continuing facing this challenge of adults and children with cancer. We used to refer these patients to the capital city for better care (chemotherapy, radiotherapy). But they could not go because the fear of the big cities, no money. Our rural population doesn’t have health insurance and are unable to afford to be treated in a modern hospital in the capital.

As the patients kept on coming to the hospital desperation, we thought that something can be done.

The first step was with children. We were able to settle a pediatric oncology unit, and more than 1000 children have received treatment, with a cure rate of 50%. This fact has encouraged me that we can put a smile on the faces of these families. The parents of the survivors are now advocating in their communities. Some of the patients were referred to us by other parents.

These are my motivations. Some of the cancer can be cured in Africa, even in a resource limited setting.

Can you tell us about patients which really impacted you?
I treated a patient a couple of years ago with lymphoma. When we initiated treatment the response was great, but before the end of her treatment the tumor recurred and she passed away.

This patient was living in the capital city before we started the treatment. I offered her the option to be treated in the city, but she declined though she was living in the city. She did not have enough money to afford the treatment there. I decided to treat her in our setting…because lymphoma is one of the treatable cancers. Well, when this patient’s tumor recurred and I felt guilty and less enthusiastic to continue. I thought that maybe if I was better trained I would have offered this patient better options.

I know personally that the training that I am going to receive will make a great impact in the care we offer to our clients. For now we depend on two consultant hematologist-oncologists from USA. We are in constantly in touch through e-mails. Their expertise has helped us tremendously. Having a trained oncologist on site will make a difference.

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