Women in the Chesterville community in Durban were encouraged to be part of a Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative this month organized by SUNCOAST.
SUNCOAST arranged for the staff members from the Pietermaritzburg branch of CANSA to bring their services, equipment and mobile clinic to the Chesterville Community Clinic to aid and assist resident health workers in screening approximately 50 women for breast cancer. Pap smears were also carried out to test for cervical cancer.
“October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month is always a time for reminding ourselves that women’s health is important,” says Louise Howell, SUNCOAST Marketing Manager. “We need to encourage women to empower and educate themselves, have regular health checks and be aware of possible cancer risks and prevention.”
“Thanks to Suncoast, a number of women were able to come to the CANSA mobile clinic for free breast examinations and pap smears by health workers from the Cancer Association of South Africa,” said Anthony van der Meulen, CEO of Vukukhanye, a non-profit and public benefit organization in the area, which is SUNCOAST’s main CSI beneficiary through funding.
“It can be an uncomfortable procedure and a bit daunting for those women who have never had a breast examination or pap smear before,” says Sister Carmelle Smith from CANSA. “We try to put them at ease, inform them about symptoms they need to look out for and also how to conduct self-examinations on a regular basis. The patient is referred to a government hospital should results reveal that further testing is required.”
It was the first time that Thokozile Eunice Madlala (54) – a mother of five and grandmother of eight – had undergone a breast exam. “The nursing sister encouraged me to come and have it done. I am glad I am here. I have learnt so much today!”
Another first-timer was Phetsile Ndzimandze (24) – mother of one: “I was a little apprehensive and scared beforehand but I am glad to have had the opportunity to have a health expert examine and inform me on what to do in the future. I have called my room-mate and told her she must also come to the clinic to be examined.”
Thirty year old mother-of-two, Bongiwe Mazibuko and Busisiwe Angel Khoza (25) – mother of one – have both had breast exams before but admitted that it has been a while since their last check-ups.
“I had brought my children to the clinic to have their immunization jabs when the community health workers encouraged me to have the breast exam done,” says Mazibuko. “I know how to do self-checks as clinic staff showed me on a previous visit. I am always encouraging my friends to get their breasts examined.”
Khoza admits that she was long overdue for a breast exam, “The last time was about four years ago. I think it’s great that we had the opportunity to be checked out today.”
“It’s really important for the community to be educated on breast and cervical cancer and to have regular health checks at their local clinics,” says Clinic Supervisor Sister Nobuhle Ndlovu. “We are so grateful that the CANSA staff provided extra assistance in examining the women. It means a great deal.”