Embracing Responsibility for Women’s Health
18 September 2018 – During October 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. View Infographics.
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 September & October.
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 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.
Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp which can be removed during a colonoscopy procedure. Should women experience abnormal symptoms, they should request a referral for a colonoscopy to screen for cancer. CANSA recommends a colonoscopy from the age of 50, every 10 years.
“I’m a colorectal survivor, diagnosed at 28, late stage 3. I experienced symptoms but the doctors kept misdiagnosing me. Eventually I went straight to a specialist who picked it up. If you find any blood or mucous in your stools go to a GP or specialist immediately,” stated Carima Adams.
Some CANSA Care Centres and Mobile Health Clinics offer a faecal occult blood test to check for blood hidden in the stool.
A side effect of colorectal cancer may include having a colostomy. Joubert adds, “We offer pre- and post-operative counselling and support groups at our Stoma Clinics. We also stock stoma brands and guarantee the lowest prices, professional assistance and speedy delivery.”
The most common form of this cancer affects the lining of the uterus. Women, 50 and older, who have diabetes, or a family history of uterine cancer or endometrial polyps are more at risk. Other risk factors included being overweight, inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, and smoking.
As the number of women smoking increases, so have the number of women being diagnosed with lung cancer. In women who stop smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer falls dramatically. Women wanting to quit smoking can sign up for CANSA’s Kick Butt online programme.
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.
For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email email@example.com or call 011 616 7662, or mobile 082 459 5230.)
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually) and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.
Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support and organisational management; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.
We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients; a Wellness Centre based in Polokwane; and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.
Visit www.cansa.org.za,or contact CANSA toll-free on 0800 22 66 22 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – follow CANSA on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram. CANSA offers multi-lingual support on WhatsApp: 0721979305 for English and Afrikaans, and 0718673530 for Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati.