On Monday, 4 February, I will receive a memorandum from the Cancer Alliance. This forms part of a campaign to create awareness about the illness, of our lifetime - cancer. The number of people diagnosed with cancer has significantly increased over the past years, and Western Cape Government Health has invested millions of rands in additional facilities, research and advanced radio therapy equipment for this purpose.
At present the department is drafting a register of cancer patients which will enable us to manage the profile of cancer patients in this province more accurately. The national health minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, recently appointed the ministerial advisory committee on the prevention and control of cancer. They will have their first meeting this month.
Western Cape Government's support for cancer patients
Western Cape Government Health offers extensive support for cancer patients, from early detection to diagnosis. Treatment can include medication and or radio therapy and or surgery. Radiations are done at the cancer treatment centres at the province's central hospitals - Groote Schuur and Tygerberg. Two years ago the department partnered with GVI Oncology so that cancer patients in George don't have to travel to Cape Town for treatment, but are now conveniently treated at George Hospital. Once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, whether at a day hospital or clinic, they are urgently referred to these specialist centres for cancer treatment at Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospital.
Some of the initial cancer examinations and surgery are sometimes done at secondary hospitals like Karl Bremer, Eben Donges or Paarl hospital, to fast track patient management. At Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital each cancer case is discussed by a cancer care team including surgeons, clinical oncologists, pathologists and radiologists to make an expert combined decision regarding the management of every individual case. All treatment decisions are based on evidence from international cancer trials and treatment guidelines are followed, on par with standard of care worldwide.
Comprehensive care is offered to all patients, irrespective of who the funder is. Patients are treated as in- or outpatients, depending on their general health and well-being and where they live. There's a great need for overnight facilities for patients and family who have to travel to Cape Town for treatment at Groote Schuur or Tygerberg Hospital.
In 2011 a lodging facility for oncology patients was opened Tygerberg Hospital. This is the second such facility to be established in the Western Cape and is a joint venture between the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and Tygerberg Hospital to provide lodging facilities for oncology patients who need to travel long distances for their treatment.
The facility accommodates twenty patients and the length of stay depends on the patient's treatment regime and meals are provided that are appropriate for the patient's condition. There is a similar facility at Groote Schuur hospital, but there is a great need for such lodges. As for Red Cross Children's Hospital, about 6 000 outpatients are treated per year and handle about 1 800 admissions. The hospital sees about 130 new paediatric cases of cancer each year.
Because of the large increase in the detection of cervical and breast cancer among women, there are programmes and campaigns focused on women and their health needs. Last year, in the Western Cape, more than 83 000 cervical cancer screenings were done on women over 30 years of age. The department have also partnered with Cause Marketing Fundraisers on the Pink Drive Project. It is a mobile mammography clinic that travels between health facilities and offers women free mammograms and breast health education.
This means that women do not have to travel to Groote Schuur or Tygerberg Hospital for a mammogram, but it can be done on site. The department receives many accolades for the treatment of breast cancer patients. Last year we heard the story of a domestic worker from Khayelitsha who, due to extensive township awareness campaigns about breast cancer, checked herself and found a lump. She visited her local clinic in Khayelitsha and within seven days had an appointment at Groote Schuur Hospital, where they drew blood samples. 12 days later she was booked for a mammogram and further blood tests. Within less than a month the lump was surgically removed. That is world class treatment.
The important message
When a cancer is detected at an early stage, there is a much better chance of cure. Cancer in children can be cured in more than 70% of cases if it is diagnosed in time. Depending on the type of cancer and stage of detection, the cure rate in adults is 40% at present. It is for this reason that Western Cape Government Health offers free screening tests at local clinics. This includes cervical smears, breast examinations, and mammograms. Some of the symptoms to look out for are weight loss for no reason, lumps and changes in the digestive system. Some of the most common cancers are preventable by changing your life style. That is why Western Cape Government aims to create a healthier society through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. This includes regular exercise and healthy eating habits, to stop smoking and limit alcohol use.
One out of every 4 adults in South Africa develop cancer, and about 600 to 700 new cases are detected a year. Among men the majority of cancers are lung, prostate and colon-rectal cancer. Among women it is cervical, breast and lung cancer. As for children, one out of every 600 children has paediatric cancer. In the Western Cape we treat approximately 180 paediatric cancer patients per year. The spectrum of disease among children is very different to that seen in adults. The commonest tumours are leukaemia and brain tumours.
For more information, visit http://www.mrc.ac.za/cancer/cancer.htm.
Hélène Rossouw, Spokesperson for Minister Botha
Tel: 021 483 4426
Cell: 082 771 8834
Issued by: Western Cape Health
4 Feb 2013