Breast Cancer, if detected early has a more than 80% survival rate. Yet, it is the second highest cancer killer of women in South Africa.
The factors that contribute to these shocking statistics are stigma of cancer in rural communities, little or no awareness of the disease, disease co-morbidity (HIV/Aids), lack of equitable services, health professionals not being able to diagnose cancer at an early stage and referral pathways that do not allow for easy access of services linked to poverty.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There is currently no breast health policy in South Africa. In the 2013-2019 NCD Strategic Plan for South Africa, treatment of Stage 1 Breast Cancer is listed as one the most cost effective interventions that will be a low cost implementation with a very cost effective impact.
At the 17th Reach to Recovery International Breast Cancer Support Conference in Cape Town in March 2013, a dedicated breakfast meeting was held with the Deputy Minister of Health to advocate and lobby for a breast health policy. For this meeting the Breast Health Global Initiative’s Summary Tables, from their Guidelines For International Breast Health and Cancer Control-Implementation were provided as an example of what South Africa can consider for a standardized breast health policy. This document covers all the aspects of the cancer continuum and looks at service for basic, limited, enhanced and maximal settings. A firm commitment was made that such a policy would be developed from a national perspective.
ADVOCATES FOR BREAST CANCER (ABC)
Now, one year later, South African Breast Cancer non-profit organisations have come together to join as one voice under the banner of the Cancer Alliance, to form the Advocates for Breast Cancer (ABC). The purpose of this coalition is to advocate for a breast health policy for South Africa. The ABC will develop a three-pronged advocacy and lobbying approach that will include the following:
• Advocacy and lobbying training for Breast Cancer Organisations to ensure that women at grassroots level are part and parcel of the process.
• An extensive communication strategy that will focus on highlighting the main issues around breast health to ensure that the voices of the women in all communities are heard.
• Building partnerships with National Health Department as well as other departments that focus on women and education to ensure policy development and implementation.
Organisations that came together for this historic event were:
- Reach for Recovery
- Breast Health Foundation
- Pink Drive
- People Living with Cancer (PLWC incorporating Cancervive)
- Journey of Hope
- Breast Course for Nurses
ABC extended an open invitation to organisations such as CANSA and BreastSense to also join the Alliance as partners and fight this cause together.
About the Cancer Alliance
The Cancer Alliance is a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and cancer advocates brought together under a common mandate as result of the May 2011Voice of Cancer Survivor Forum, a platform which allowed cancer survivors to express their needs regarding access to quality of care, attitudes, practices, policies of cancer control and services in South Africa. The Alliance seeks to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to effect change for all South Africans affected by cancer. The Alliance will act as a watchful eye on strategies and policies that ensure the significant reduction of South Africa’s cancer burden and improved access to care for all cancer patients.
The Cancer Alliance will achieve this through the publication of position statements/papers and baseline papers as well as public messaging relating to such publications. This will be strengthened with focused advocacy and lobbying activities with relevant stakeholders regarding issues faced by all South Africa’s cancer patients.
Members: amaBele Belles, Brain Tumour Foundation SA, Breast Health Foundation, Cause Marketing Fundraisers, Campaigning for Cancer, Can-Sir, Cancer Buddies, CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation, Hospice Palliative Care Association SA, IGAZI Foundation, Journey of Hope, Look Good Feel Better, National Council Against Smoking, National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, People Living With Cancer, Pink Trees, Reach for Recovery, Sinomusanothando Community Development, The Sunflower Fund, The Vrede Foundation, S.J. Meyer and C.C. Green.