Hlokomela Women’s Clinic – fighting cancer in rural SA

We learn about Hlokomela Women’s Clinic, a pioneering healthcare infrastructure project, in Limpopo.

The Hlokomela Women’s Clinic (HWC) in Hoedspruit, Limpopo is the only one of its kind in the region. It offers breast and cervical cancer screenings, and cervical cryotherapy treatment to local farm workers and their families. 

Clinic visits and screenings are free of charge to those who can’t afford to pay while those who can afford it, pay a fee. 

With cases of breast cancer increasing globally, it’s essential to have clinics, like HWC, in rural communities to improve knowledge and education, and provide support and regular care. This makes women more aware of breast cancer symptoms as well as the risk factors, resulting in earlier detection. 

Pay-it-forward movement

Our team, at HWC, strive to be creative in making our services accessible to all. 

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month last year, we ran a special deal to motivate women to come in for a clinical breast exam, Pap smear or ultrasound screening. The clinic arranged a two-for-one special, where women brought a friend, family member or domestic worker to the clinic. The clinic saw 61 patients. We did 58 Pap smears, 49 breast scans, 12 abdominal scans, six pelvic scans, two 4D scans and nine pregnancy scans. 

The team also travelled around the region and conducted a total of 355 clinical breast examinations/screenings, where we also discussed symptoms, signs, treatment and educated on breast self-examinations. 

Quality care for everyone

What makes this clinic so special is the dedication of the staff. Our involvement doesn’t end with a differential diagnosis. We take patients through the screening process and then, in most cases, maintain supportive relationships during difficult journeysof biopsies or treatments. We strive to make each patient who enters the clinic feel welcome, safe and important. clinic challenges

Though, the clinic is making a difference, it does still have its share of challenges. One of them is not having a formal feedback system in place for ultrasound image interpretation and confirmation. The doctors, that images are referred to, work on a voluntary basis. Therefore, not always immediately available to assist.

New refferal partnership formed 

Since HWC was established in 2017, we have overcome difficulties with referral systems. 

Towards the end of last year, the Breast Health Foundation (BHF), Helen Joseph Hospital Breast Care Clinic (HJHBCC) and HWC formed a partnership, allowing patients from Hoedspruit and surrounds to travel to HJHBCC for referral appointments and treatment. A breast health navigator meets the patient in JHB and escorts her to the CANSA Keurboom Care Home, where the patient will stay while being treated at HJHBCC. The navigator also assures the patient gets to HJHBCC for her consultations. After receiving follow-up dates, patients are escorted back to the bus station to go back home. The same process would then follow with their treatment regime. 

Discovery Health has kindly sponsored funds for a pilot project with BHF and HWC to facilitate these women to access treatment. 

Tshemba Foundation 

It’s thanks to Tshemba Foundation (TF) that HWC is running; they initiated the project and funded the building of the clinic. 

Before HWC opened, Christine Du Preez, the clinic director, and TF ensured that the ground work, planning, building, funding and strategising was in place. This allows HWC to run like a well-oiled machine.

TF also offers a unique voluntourism programme for doctors to work at the clinic. Their aim is to improve access to healthcare in low-income communities, in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, while enriching the lives of qualified medical professionals. 

The volunteers (international and local) reside in a lodge, while providing essential medical care at the surrounding hospitals and clinics, and upskilling local healthcare providers.

For more information, visit www.tshembafoundation.org and www.hlokomela.org.za

onja Botha is a qualified staff nurse focusing on ultrasound. 
She graduated in 2010 from St Lourens Nursing College. She has 
passed various courses - Phlebotomy, an ultrasound course - to 
better her skills and contribute to her passion of women’s health.


Sonja Botha is a qualified staff nurse focusing on ultrasound. She graduated in 2010 from St Lourens Nursing College. She has passed various courses – Phlebotomy, an ultrasound course – to better her skills and contribute to her passion of women’s health.