Cancer is one of the most important healthcare challenges faced by society today. Considerable advances in medical science and technology in recent years mean, however, that the prognosis for cancers of all kinds has improved, particularly when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.
This is the view of oncologist Dr Sylvia Rodrigues, who heads up the cancer centre at Netcare Clinton Hospital in Alberton, which provides a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment service to the communities of the region. She says that the prognosis for cancer patients is in the great majority of cases far better if it is detected early and treated appropriately from the outset.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for a total of 8.8 million deaths in 2015. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), meanwhile, estimates that a substantial one in four families in South Africa will be impacted by this disease in some way.
“This highlights something of the magnitude of the challenge posed by cancer both locally and around the world,” notes Dr Rodrigues.
The importance of early detection
Dr Rodrigues says that studies have shown that a woman diagnosed with early stage one breast cancer who is treated appropriately has a good chance of a complete cure, as does a man diagnosed and treated while prostate cancer is still localised, or has not spread to tissue beyond the prostate gland itself.
“This underscores the importance of early detection and is why we encourage South Africans from all walks of life to closely monitor their health,” she observes.
“Women should therefore be encouraged to, for example, self-examine their breasts every month and check with their doctor when they should commence medical breast cancer screenings and how often they should have these. Women over the age of 21, or who are sexually active, should arrange a visit to their gynaecologist for a pap smear once every two years, which assists in detecting cervical cancer.”
“Men, on the other hand, can self-examine for testicular cancer, which even young men can develop, and should ask their doctor to perform annual screenings for prostate cancer when they are 50 years of age and older,” advises Dr Rodrigues.
“South Africans who may be at higher risk of developing certain kinds of cancers because of, for example, a family history of the condition, should also have themselves regularly screened and monitored.”
Help at hand
Dr Rodrigues says that the cancer centre at Netcare Clinton Hospital offers a comprehensive cancer screening and treatment service. It has mammography technology and other diagnostic services for monitoring breast health, and offers chemo-, radiation-, hormonal- and surgical therapies, or a combination of these, as may be necessary to treat most types of cancers.
“We find that the last thing that patients want to do is to travel long distances to access their treatments, particularly as they may not be feeling at their best. We therefore developed this comprehensive spectrum of services so that our patients can easily access expertise and quality cancer treatment without having to travel long distances,” she points out.
Dr Rodrigues says that the more common forms of women’s cancers that are treated at the centre include breast, cervical, colon, lung and skin cancer, while those affecting men include prostate, lung, skin, colon and liver cancers.
The Netcare Clinton Hospital oncology centre offers a unique ‘Hold my hand’ programme to support patients undergoing treatment for cancer. As part of the programme volunteer patients assist newly diagnosed patients providing them with information on what to expect during treatment, and with emotional support.
Cancer can impact anyone
“Everyone can conceivably develop cancer,” adds Dr Rodrigues. “Many cancers can however be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, regular medical check-ups and by taking preventative action, such as getting vaccinated against viruses such as hepatitis B and the human papilloma virus, which can cause several cancers including cervical cancer.”
She says that unhealthy eating habits, obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, infections, overexposure to the UV rays of the sun, lack of physical exercise and environmental pollutants can also potentially increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers.
“Taking measures such as adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle, protecting yourself against the harsh rays of the sun and giving up smoking and drinking, may therefore assist to protect one from developing some kinds of cancers. It is also important to know your family history of cancerous diseases and to inform your treating doctor, as genetic factors also often play a role.”
Emphasis on women
Dr Rodrigues points out that, while the facility treats all kinds of cancers, it also places an emphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of women’s cancers.
“A team including oncologists, gynaecologists, surgeons and other breast specialists hold a weekly forum to discuss the best comprehensive treatment approaches to be adopted in each patient’s case, as each patient’s situation is unique and requires highly personalised treatment and management,” she adds.
According to Esme Abrahams, general manager of Netcare Clinton Hospital, the need for an integrated oncology centre in the Alberton area was identified as far back as 2007.
“Our vision was to ensure that the hospital, served by some of the country’s leading oncologists and other cancer specialists, would have advanced technology at their disposal in order to meet the needs of cancer patients in the region,” she concludes.
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare Clinton Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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