The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) is raising awareness in September and October with its “tell her, tell all” Women’s Health campaign. The focus is on cancers that affect women, including breast, cervical, ovarian and uterine.
The campaign launched by a recruitment agency aims to educate women about the significance of knowing their body, the importance of regular cancer screening, the ability to recognise the warning signs of cancer, and what to do to reduce the cancer risk. Education is vital, and CANSA has over 180 fact sheets sharing the signs, risks, symptoms and treatment options of all types of cancers.
Apart from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women of all races and ethnicities. According to the 2009 National Cancer Registry, 1 in 33 women in South Africa have a lifetime risk for breast cancer. The second most common cancer among women is cervical cancer, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 42 women in South Africa. The incidence of cancer of the uterus is 1 in 160 women, and 1 in 460 has a lifetime risk for ovarian cancer.
Women have the following screening options available to them:
* Have monthly breast self-examinations and pap smears;
* Go for regular screening (clinical breast examinations) available at 30 CANSA Care Centres countrywide;
* Symptom-free women should go for a mammogram every year from age 40;
* The non-invasive SureTouch device for safe breast screening (not a diagnostic tool)is available at some CANSA Care Centres; and
* CANSA also has various Mobile Health Clinics which offer screening to people in communities who do not have easy access to health screening.
When it comes to screening for cervical cancer, it’s important to go for regular pap smears that can detect abnormal cells in the cervix that could develop into cancer. CANSA encourages all women between 18 and 25 who have ever been sexually active to have a pap smear every three years, or two years later after first sexual activity, until the age of 70. It is also important to learn more about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer.