South Africa: Early Detection Can Save Your Life

Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu says early detection of cancer, HIV and gender-based violence (GBV) can save women's lives.

Bogopane-Zulu was speaking at a luncheon attended by businesswomen, women ambassadors and spouses of ambassadors in South Africa, on Monday at the Diep in Die Berg Conference Centre in Tshwane.

The luncheon forms part of the Deputy Minister's Women's Month programme, celebrated under the theme: "25 Years of Democracy: Growing South Africa Together for Women's Emancipation".

It also coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Pink Drive, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that provides early detection and intervention services for people across South Africa who have breast, cervical, prostate and testicular cancer. It conducts screening and education to spread the message that early detection saves lives.

Since its inception, the organisation has conducted over 18 000 free mammogram screening, over 11 000 free prostate-specific antigen (PSA), saving over 200 000 lives in the process. These services were rendered mainly in rural areas and disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa.

In her remarks, Bogopane-Zulu highlighted the importance of prevention, early detection and intervention of cancer, HIV and GBV as well as the interconnection between the three as they affect women worldwide.

"Women are most affected by the triple challenge of cancer, HIV and GBV and this year, we decided to focus on this. Every woman's life saved means precious extra years that children can spend with their parents or caregivers, with friends and family.

"We need an integrated approach that holistically addresses these challenges because prevention and early diagnosis is crucial to survival. We can save thousands of lives if women experiencing gender-based violence get early intervention services, and if women infected with HIV get early diagnosis," the Deputy Minister said.

Pink Drive Founder and CEO Noelene Kotschan appealed to funders to contribute to the cause.

"We've set up to prove that it doesn't matter what your background is or where you live. You are entitled to basic health care and education. One [Pink Drive] truck does 20 public sector hospitals [visits] in one month without any funding from government," Kotschan said.

Wayne Walkinshaw, whose mother passed away due to cancer, commended Pink Drive for the services provided for underprivileged communities. Walkinshaw has also been diagnosed with skin cancer.

"I know what it is like not to be able to pay for treatment," Walkinshaw said.

Number of cancer cases could double to two million

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is an increase in the number of cancer cases in Africa, which could double to two million in the next 20 years if no drastic measures are put in place to prevent and ensure early diagnosis and intervention.

Globally, it is estimated that there were 18 million new cases of cancer and close to 10 million in 2018. Around a third of cancer deaths are due to leading behavioural and dietary risks, including high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol use.

The National Cancer Strategic Framework (2017 - 2022) reported that cancer is a growing national health and developmental challenge, with deaths due to cancer representing approximately 9% of all-cause mortality in adults in South Africa.

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