4 February 2013

South Africa: Patients Protest Over Cancer Services

Photo: Jacqueline Koch
A young cancer patient receives care from a nurse at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala (file photo).

Cape Town — Cancer survivors gathered in central Cape Town yesterday to protest and raise awareness of the challenges faced by patients in South Africa, saying they are fed up with among others broken radiation machines and poor treatment access.

“We will overcome,” the group of cancer survivors and supporters sang during the picket in front of St George’s cathedral in Cape Town. Dressed in black and waving placards, the group wanted to raise awareness of the challenges faced by cancer patients and advocate to get cancer on the political agenda.

“We don’t only want to raise awareness about cancer, but we are also petitioning provincial governments to ensure effective cancer control strategies,” said Linda Greeff, an executive member of the Cancer Alliance and a cancer survivor herself.

“We want government to address the issues cancer patients are experiencing – the broken radiation machines in state hospitals, long waiting lists, the non-existing cancer registry, inequalities in cancer treatment and the fact that the same treatment is not available in all provinces,” said Greeff.

They handed over a memorandum to the Western Cape health department demanding that cancer services be prioritised and measures be implemented to improve services for patients.

Denise Robinson, Member of Parliament and Democratic Alliance spokesperson on cancer said that skills and resource shortages in primary health care are preventing early detection and treatment of cancer. “If we can get the legislation in place, we can ensure that money gets allocated to where it is needed, and turn the situation around,” said Robinson.

Yesterday (4 February) was World Cancer Day, and the aim of this year’s campaign is to dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer and the stigma patients and those affected by the disease face in their communities.

The International Union for Cancer Control identified the following four myths as part of the awareness campaign for 2013:

- Cancer is not just a health issue – it has wide-reaching social, economic, development and human rights implications.

- Cancer is a not only a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries – cancer is a global epidemic.

- Cancer is not a death sentence – many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured.

- Cancer is preventable – with the rights strategies, a third of the most common cancer cancers be prevented.

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