Breast cancer still a common disease among SA women

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Breast and cervical cancers remain prevalent diseases among South African women. This is according to Head of the National Cancer Registry Dr Elvira Singh.

“The statistics of breast cancer are that one in 27 women in South Africa will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. One in 42 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in her lifetime,” says Singh.

The registry is responsible for collecting cancer statistics and informing the Department of Health on policy for cancer prevention and control.

Although the last report was released in 2014, Singh says that the information remains useful and relevant.

“We are not looking for sudden spikes in cancer incidents because that will not happen. What we are looking for is the long-term trend for cancer data in order to inform policy, health interventions. If we look at our data, the patterns have been stable over past ten years.”

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South Africa celebrates Women’s Month annually in August. The month is used to put a spotlight on issues affecting women.

Stellenbosch University Associate and former Head of Research at the Cancer Association of South Africa Dr Carl Albrecht says that it is concerning that while breast cancer continues killing women, the cause of the disease remains unknown.

“We don’t really know what is causing breast cancer. It is an international problem. It affects people all over the world. There is no evidence that it is a virus. It is a puzzle! We don’t really understand why it is happening and it is so obvious it is number one in the world. “

Despite the challenges in the fight against the disease, Albrecht says the picture is not all doom and gloom. He  says there are some cancers that we do know more about and have measures in place to prevent them and cervical cancer is one of them.

“For instance cervical cancer, and the big challenge there is to vaccinate young girls of the age of about ten with the injection that will protect them against cervical cancer for the rest of their lives and I am very proud to be able to say that South Africa was the first country in Africa, to start the vaccination against cervical cancer.”

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Breast cancer survivor Betty Nkgweng says there is still information gap when it comes to the disease.   Nkgweng was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2007.  She underwent radiation and both her breasts were removed.

“What I am worried about is that they only talk about cancer during certain months.”

Nkgweng says information about the disease should be distributed everywhere.

Click below to listen to Betty Nkgweng: