During October, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) highlights the important role that women can play in taking ownership of their personal health. According to statistics from the National Cancer Registry (NCR) 2014, the top five cancers affecting women in SA include: breast, cervical, colorectal, uterine and lung cancer.
Says Elize Joubert, CANSA’s CEO: “It’s important to empower women with knowledge regarding lowering their cancer and health risk, and recognising warning signs. We also encourage monthly breast self-examinations, annual medical check-ups and cancer screening for early detection, as symptoms don’t always present until cancer has spread. Women need to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, cutting out lifestyle factors that increase their cancer risk.”
SA women have a lifetime risk of 1 in 27. On Friday 26 October 2018, CANSA Care Centres are holding a national Clinical Breast Examination Screening Day teaching women how to do breast self-examinations while nurses perform Clinical Breast Examinations. Mobile Health Clinics offer these services to women in remote rural areas. See the schedule for October on cansa.org.za
Breast cancer survivor, Melissa Willemse says, “When it comes to breast cancer, age is not a factor. The first doctor I saw immediately dismissed my question about the painful lump under my arm because I was too young for breast cancer. When I eventually went for a second opinion we found out I had stage 3 Triple negative breast cancer. I was 28 the first time and now at 32, I’ve just finished treatment for a recurrence. If you feel something is wrong, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Cancer doesn’t care how old you are.”
CANSA advocates a mammogram every year for all women from age 40 for purposes of non-symptomatic breast screening. Visit the CANSA website for a list of public hospitals and clinics offering mammograms. Also, possible mammography is offered at reduced fees, at participating Radiological Society of South Africa affiliated mammography clinics during October.
CANSA Care Centres offer a variety of breast prostheses at affordable rates for those who had to undergo a mastectomy/lumpectomy and offer advice to help cope with the side effects of cancer treatment.
The second highest cancer affecting women in SA is cervical (lifetime risk of 1 in 42). CANSA recommends pap smear tests – uncomfortable, but painless – to help lower the risk of cervical cancer, not just detect it early.
CANSA Care Centre nurses offer pap smears and its Mobile Health Clinics provide this service in areas far from clinics. CANSA supports the Department of Health’s HPV School Vaccination programme. Persistent infection with HPV may lead to cervical cancer, so all females in the age group of 9-26 years (provided they are not sexually active) can be vaccinated.
Women making use of public sector screening services are entitled to three free pap smears per lifetime, starting at the age of 30 years or older, with a 10 year interval between each smear. Women who are at high risk, including those that are HIV-positive, can attend more frequently.
CANSA’s support to cancer patients also includes medical equipment hire, wigs, counselling, support groups, online support groups and resources, as well as CANSA Care Homes where patients receiving treatment far from home can stay during treatment.
“CANSA further funds research projects at tertiary institutions regarding breast cancer related to screening, improved management, rehabilitation and improved quality of life. And we currently fund several cervical cancer research projects ”, concluded Joubert.
Taken from https://www.cansa.org.za/womens-health/