Breast cancer is the most common cancer and greatest cause of cancer death among women in South Africa (SA). Poor education and lack of awareness of breast health issues, cultural barriers and no access to healthcare facilities have hindered efforts by the government to combat the disease among low-income communities.
Named after the Zulu word for ‘uplifting’, Phakamisa brings together different organisations to help raise breast cancer awareness, increase early diagnosis, and improve access to treatment and effective support networks. AstraZeneca is also working to ensure that our comprehensive range of hormonal treatments are made available to the health service in a cost effective way.
In collaboration with South Africa’s Foundation for Professional Development, we are providing accredited courses in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. And in partnership with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Breast Health Foundation, we are training teams of volunteers and counsellors to go out into the community, raising awareness and supporting patients, as Phakamisa ‘Navigators’.
Since the launch of Phakamisa in 2011, more than 500 healthcare professionals have been provided with courses and 400 people trained as ‘Navigators’. Continued education for the Navigators has also covered socially relevant issues such as cervical cancer, HIV, gender-based violence and child abuse. This gives Navigators the necessary tools to better understand the environment their patients come from, and to prompt patients to proactively manage all aspects of their health.
Phakamisa is in its fourth year of operation and, to date, more than 600,000 women have been reached by Navigators across the country. Over 40,000 public meetings have been held, some 5,000 women have raised concerns about their own breast health and over 2,500 malignant lumps correctly referred for early diagnosis and treatment. The primary objective of the Navigators remains to support diagnosed breast cancer patients in the public system through a complex and daunting journey.
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