KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane. File picture.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane. File picture.

KZN MEC Simelane concerned Covid-19 has overshadowed breast cancer awareness

By Xolile Bhengu Time of article published Oct 10, 2021

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DURBAN – KZN MEC for Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane has urged women to attend regular breast examinations and regular pap smears to screen for cancer.

Simelane said she was concerned that the attention on Covid-19 had derailed successful programmes for the province on creating awareness on the early signs of breast cancer and the importance of clinic and self examination to catch the disease early.

She said: “Unfortunately Covid-19 has overshadowed the importance of breast cancer awareness which is still a priority disease for us as a province, not only for women but also for men. Women need to keep screening and monitoring their breasts and men their chests for any irregular changes in the shape of their breasts or chest and to go to their nearest clinic for further examination.

“This is even more crucial for women aged 35 and above, who have a higher risk of developing breast and other cancers. It is still important for us to promote holistic screening as much as we are promoting the Covid-19 vaccine programme,” said Simelane.

She added that in KZN the issue of people believing they could not get cancer resulted in a worrying delay in treatment.

“People still have a false sense that just because they are black they cannot get breast cancer or any other cancer.”

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been available to young girls in South Africa since 2014 as part of the standard vaccine programme. According to global guidelines, the HPV vaccination is recommended between the ages of 9 and 26 for girls and boys. In South Africa, boys can have the vaccine through a private practitioner.

Dr Sandile Tshabalala, KZN Health Department head, said between the ages of 8 and 10 parents, needed to utilise the government available HPV vaccination for girls, to curb the spread of the other concerning killer, especially among black women.

The incidence rate of cervical cancer in South Africa is reported between 22.8 and 27 per 100 000 women compared to the global average of 15.8. Annually there are some 5 743 new cases reported with 3 027 associated deaths in South Africa. About 99% of cervical cancers are associated with HPV.

Tshabalala said it was crucial that girls take the HPV vaccine at a young age before they have had their first period and were not likely to be sexually active.

“At that stage their cells are still considered normal and similar to the male cells and they can be given the vaccine. When the HPV vaccine is taken at that age they are likely to not develop it later in life.

“But we also encourage women to use pap smears at public clinics to check for any cancerous cells. Any type of preventative measure says there was planning, and says that the government is able to plan on spending for those who may need interventions later in life which is also less costly as an intervention if you are on medical aid.

“Diet is another area such as sugar, junk food, and smoking that we also need to put more emphasis on addressing as a measure to curb the spread of diseases such as cancer and other diseases, and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.”


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