Education, early detection and accessibility key to addressing SA’s cancer crisis

The Cancer Association of South Africa’s focus and services are for those affected by cancer and to educate the public on how to lower cancer risk. Picture: Pixabay

The Cancer Association of South Africa’s focus and services are for those affected by cancer and to educate the public on how to lower cancer risk. Picture: Pixabay

Published Feb 5, 2024


Over the past years, World Cancer Day on February 4 has held significance in increasing awareness of early detection to reduce cancer-related cases.

It is reported that cancer is the second-greatest cause of mortality worldwide that affects millions of people, and presents enormous obstacles for societies and health-care systems around the globe.

Bada Pharasi, CEO of The Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa, and Zodwa Sithole, head of advocacy at the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), consider the difficulties South Africa is facing in the fight against cancer.

Sithole and Pharasi also focus on what can be done to improve patient access to innovative treatments for cancer.

They state that numerous obstacles hinder access to cutting-edge innovative medicines for combating cancer, but the path to saving millions of lives lies in the collaborative effort between the public and private systems to bridge the accessibility divide and mitigate the mortality rate associated with the diseases.

They added that South Africa is no exception, ranking third in Africa in terms of the burden of the disease.

They explained that sharing solutions to solving cancer includes improving patient outcomes.

This entails supporting early detection initiatives, treatment accessibility and availability, education, and co-operation between public and private businesses.

Knowledge is not only wealth, but also health.

In order to promote cancer education, it is critical to close information gaps and make sure that reliable, easily comprehensible material is distributed in all languages through a variety of communication methods.

Religious and traditional leaders, who hold significant influence in communities, can be engaged to help educate communities and dispel myths about the disease.

Furthermore, campaigns that provide evidence-based information about cancer, its risk factors, prevention, and early detection can help raise awareness and increase the uptake of cancer screening and vaccination programmes.

They claim that in order for South Africa to be successful in the fight against cancer, the country must emphasise early detection programmes, provide adequate funds to support them, push for the accessibility of necessary medications and treatments, and promote co-operation between the public and commercial sectors.

“Transforming South Africa’s cancer crisis requires urgent action and a comprehensive strategy. By prioritising early detection, championing accessibility, and spearheading collaboration between the public and private sectors, we can be the change we want to see in the country and the driving force in propelling South Africa forward,” they said.

According to a report by the Department of Health’s National Cancer Registry and Statistics South Africa’s mortality and causes of death statistics, the number of deaths from cancer in the country grew by 29.3% between 2008 and 2018, from 33 720 to 43 613.

The survey also stated that between 2008 and 2018, mortality from cancer increased for black African population groups by 68.6%, for coloured population groups by 68.3%, for Indian or Asian population groups by 53%, and for white population groups by 23.4%.

The Star