Cancer is a disease that affects everyone.

Mrs. Claudia Francis, Clinical Trials Coordinator based at the African Cancer Institute, handing over donations to Mrs. Desiree Herbert, founder of the NPO Hope to the Hopeless.

 

Stellenbosch University’s African Cancer Institute (ACI) took the tagline for World Cancer Day “closing the gap in cancer care” to heart when they celebrated the day with members of the Ravensmead community, sharing knowledge and showing support.

World Cancer Day, marked annually on 4 February, is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and it is aimed at uniting initiatives for cancer, and raising awareness of this disease while calling on action from governments and individuals around the world. This year the focus of World Cancer Day is on “closing the gap in cancer care”, and aimed to work towards promoting equity among people in terms of the various stages of cancer treatment, from access to early detection services, diagnostics, treatment, and care.

With this goal in mind, the ACI’s Community Advisory Board (CAB), led by Mrs Lea Wynand, took part in a World Cancer Day event held in the Ravensmead Moravian Church in Cape Town. The event focused on improving knowledge and raising awareness of the value of early detection to help close the gap in cancer care.

The ACI established a CAB in 2018, which consists of members who reflect a diversity of cancer experiences and skills, and who have cultural insight into the communities participating in clinical trials. The CAB is a critical component of the ACI’s community engagement strategy, representing an essential link between the ACI, health facilities, and the community to extend the ACI’s reach beyond academia. There is a need for equity among people seeking to access early detection services, diagnostics, treatment, and care.

“Advocacy is a critical strategy of the ACI towards improving cancer control both nationally and across the African continent. By involving the CAB as stakeholders, the ACI can create awareness and programmes aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle which can help to reduce or prevent the risk of cancer,” says Dr Yuri Munsamy, ACI’s Scientific Officer.

 

Mrs. Lea Wynand, Chairperson of the African Cancer Institute Community Advisory Board shared the importance of early cancer diagnosis and gave an overview of the signs and symptoms of common cancers.

At the event, Wynand, who is a former nurse, told community members about the importance of early cancer diagnosis and gave an overview of the signs and symptoms of some common cancers. She motivated the attendees to advise others to seek help if they notice signs and symptoms of cancer.

Ms. Maureen Baadjies, a counselor from Ravensmead Day Hospital, spoke on the importance of having regular Pap smears and provided information on the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the vaccination of young girls against HPV. She urged the audience to consult the health services that are available to them and to attend appointments as required.

Mrs. Cora Swano gave a broad overview of the services provided to cancer patients at the Reach for Recovery care point at Tygerberg Hospital, and she touched on the psychological effects that a mastectomy can have on women, and explained the importance of having a prosthesis fitted after mastectomy.

The event presented opportunities to network with other NPOs who all share common goals:  improving knowledge on cancer, equipping families of patients with relevant knowledge on how to care for the cancer patient at home, and making people aware of the resources that are available in our communities.

It was also announced that sponsorships of adult diapers for bedridden cancer patients were obtained and donated to the NPO, Hope to the Hopeless, which is a care centre for older people. Currently, the group is experiencing challenges in obtaining sponsorships, and, in particular, adult diapers are in high demand. To empower the NPO to raise funds, cupcakes were donated, and the community donated to the NPO by purchasing these.

The ACI is excited to continue sharing its collective progress with members of the public on how we are working towards closing the care gap in the months and years to come.