Women get urged to be cancer aware

Breast cancer survivors hold up breast prosthesis wrapped up for safe keeping.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) supports the National Department of Health’s efforts to prioritise awareness of breast and cervical cancer and to educate women with knowledge of symptoms, screening opportunities and lowering cancer risk.

In August, in line with its 365 Day Health Challenge, Cansa encourages women to get screened and to proactively share this on every available platform, including social media, encouraging and challenging other women to get screened.

Breast cancer is the most common among South African women with a lifetime risk of 1 in 27, according to the 2014 National Cancer Registry (NCR).

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths and the second most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding basal cell carcinoma) among women. The estimated life-time risk among all women in South Africa is 1:42.

Research has shown that a limited knowledge of symptoms, as well as misconceptions, stigma and shame around cancer and screening, especially cervical cancer, cause delays in women going for screening or seeking appropriate care.

Gerda Strauss, Cansa’s head of service delivery, emphasises the importance of screening and early detection.

“We’re excited to share an educational video that shows women how to perform a breast self-examination, it’s available on our website and social media platforms. Women with a family history of breast cancer should be especially aware of symptoms and not neglect screening.”

Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), making it one of the most preventable cancers when the HPV vaccination is implemented appropriately.

“All women should go for Pap smears at least every three years, from the age of 25, to detect abnormal cells early. However, women are entitled to and can request screening at a younger age” Ms Strauss added.

For more information, contact Cansa on their toll-free number 0800 22 66 22, call 021 689 5381 (8am to 4.30pm weekdays), WhatsApp to 072 197 9305 (English and Afrikaans), WhatsApp to 071 867 3530 (Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati) or email info@cansa.org.za