Motsoaledi said the vaccinations were an investment not only in the girls' health, but in the health of a future generation of women. Picture: Jason Boud
Motsoaledi said the vaccinations were an investment not only in the girls' health, but in the health of a future generation of women. Picture: Jason Boud

State unveils cancer control plan

By Wilma Stassen Time of article published Nov 27, 2013

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Johannesburg - For years HIV and tuberculosis have dominated South Africa’s health-care programmes, but the country is looking to pay more attention to cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with the introduction of a new national plan.

This is according to Sandhya Singh, the Department of Health’s director of disease, disability and geriatrics. Singh presented the government’s plans for its long-awaited National Cancer Prevention and Control Programme (NCPCP) at the Aortic Cancer Conference, which concluded on Sunday in Durban.

“The (plan) lays the platform for concerns around issues of poverty and inequality within South African communities,” Singh said.

Singh emphasised that the NCPCP, which was expected to be released earlier this year, will be aligned with the National Development Plan 2030’s target for universal access to health.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi began taking note of looming cancer and NCD threats when a 2009 study in the medical journal The Lancet placed NCDs second on the list of South Africa’s “quadruple burden of disease”, which also includes HIV, tuberculosis and high maternal and infant mortality.

“After the report came out, the minister made sure that NCDs were included in every single speech he made,” Singh said.

Recent studies suggest that HIV and NCDs each might be responsible for about 35 percent of all annual deaths in South Africa.

The rise of NCDs in South Africa has been fuelled by tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and obesity.

One of the country’s first steps towards cancer control came with the development of a National Cancer Registry.

According to a 2011 regulation, each new cancer diagnosis must be reported to a central registry in order to track cancer prevalence and trends.

“Cancer intelligence is central to planning,” Singh added.

According to the registry, cervical, breast, oesophagus, colorectal, stomach and certain types of skin cancers are the deadliest cancers among women.

In men, the most cancer deaths occur from lung, oesophagus, prostate, stomach, colorectal and skin cancer or melanoma.

Created this year, the department’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Cancer has recommended that the country strengthen this national registry and develop a cancer research agenda.

Some of the other steps the Department of Health is taking towards cancer control include:

* Rolling out the human papillomavirus vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Starting in February 2014, 420 000 9-year-old girls in Grade 4 will be immunised.

* Proposing regulations to prevent cancer and other NCDs, including proposed regulations to restrict in-store tobacco displays, limit the use of tanning beds to adults and mandating salt reductions in selected food.

* A political commitment to integrate palliative care to manage cancer patients’ pain in to primary health care. - Health-e News Service

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