The South African National Department of Health signed two new policies this July: the Breast Cancer Prevention and Control Policy and the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy.
The Ministry of Health recognises breast and cervical cancers, among others, as national priorities. Breast and cervical cancer are the top two most common cancers in women in South Africa.
The Breast Cancer Prevention and Control Policy (BCPCP) is South Africa’s first policy document that provides clinical support for women, who are at risk of developing the disease later in life or are currently undergoing treatment, to survive and live healthy lives.
The updated Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy (CCPCP) aims to reduce oncogenic HPV infections, increase the detection and treatment rate for cervical pre-cancer, and provide timely treatment and palliative care for invasive cancer. It also recognises technological advancements in cervical cancer prevention methods and new evidence on prevention and treatment approaches in the context of the HIV epidemic. Specifically, these policies introduce several new changes that will positively impact women’s care. In terms of prevention, the policies encourage increased screening and treatment of adult and adolescent females who are of moderate- and high-risk of cervical and breast cancers.
With regards to patient care, the policies permit the usage of new treatments for breast and cervical cancers. CCPCP phases in Liquid-based Cytology (LBC) for cervical screening. LBC provides more accurate results than Pap smears, and will reduces the need for women to go back to facilities for repeat testing. The BCPCP phases in trastuzumab to treat women with early stage breast cancer who are HER2 positive. The treatment will be rolled out in three phases at tertiary institutions in all nine provinces over the next year.
The policies will be formally launched nationally around September. In the coming months, there will be drafting of provincial implementation plans and workshops centred on breast cancer and cervical cancer awareness within the community.
There is a need for more coordinated efforts with civil society on messages to the community about raising awareness. The Department will continue to work closely with different stakeholders to ensure effective implementation of the policy towards better life for women and their families.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Dr Manala Makua
Dr Manala Makua is theDirector of Women’s Health and Genetics at the National Department of Health.