A doctor from Kuruman in the Northern Cape advocating for early detection of cancer; believes access to healthcare in rural communities is still a major challenge. Dr Tshego Gopane realised that, in most cases, local communities in rural areas lack information on cancer.

She established a community based health care project. She performs free screening of lifestyle diseases like HIV, cervical cancer and has recently introduced prostate and breast screening.

Gopane started her “Tshela” meaning to live, consulting project five years ago. She was driven mostly by empowering those living in rural communities by attempting to change their various health issues.

Gopane believes in advocating medical information to those less privileged.

“Because of them being rural, sometimes they’re not empowered with knowledge. So the primary goal was really to advocate health and to engage and go down to the most rural area and say ‘this is why a pap smear is done, we can bring it to you. This is what happens to you if you don’t do a pap smear.’ The drive was to make a broad change in the most rural communities who are disadvantaged.”

Despite her efforts, the waiting list at public hospitals remains a challenge. Gopane says that 84% of people in rural areas use the public healthcare system.

“When we have identified an illness; because of the challenges of the healthcare system, which is a burden. 84 % of our people use the public health system and in the rural location, it’s transport issues when we refer. Our referral centre is in Kimberley, so there are long waiting periods for our patients to get treatment. So it becomes a frustration both to me as a practitioner and to the patients who would come back three months later and they have not seen the gynaecologist or the specialist.”

She has been performing free pap smear screening for rural women which saved many lives due to early detection of cancer. Patient Elsie Bojang says she was relieved when the hospital told her that she does not have cancer.

“I got relieved the moment the hospital told me they didn’t detect anything. I was happy because there were moments were I thought the cancer might have spread, but once the doctors said there was nothing, I was happy.”

Another patient Elisa Gaotsenwe says her womb was slightly cut in the treatment of cancer.

“I was referred to the Kimberley Hospital and got tested there. They also gave me pills.

On my second appointment, they slightly cut my womb and I had to return on the 27th of January where I was told that I was cancer free.”

Motivated by social justice, Dr Gopane has always had a social consciousness of doing anything that can make a change in rural communities.