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Family blames themselves, hospital for deadly delay

Written by Tshilidzi Tuwani

Shortly after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, an elderly Tshwane woman has lost her fight with the disease – and left her family blaming themselves and the health system.

Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among South African women (File photo)

Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among South African women (File photo)

In July, OurHealth reported that 63-year-old Decia Seemise had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. The diagnosis followed a hard year for the family that continues to live in poor conditions that family members believe contribute to Decia’s 4-year-old grandson’s severe skin condition.

In an interview with OurHealth, Decia admitted that although she had symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain, she had refused to go for cervical cancer screening because she thought she would be made to take an HIV test.  She had been scheduled for surgery to deal with the cancer.

But according to Decia’s daughter Merriam, Decia passed away without ever having receiving the surgery she was promised.

“I took my mother to Dr George Mukhari Hospital where she was due for surgery on 26 July 2014,” Merriam told OurHealth. “Unfortunately, the doctors indicated that her cancer was worse.”

Merriam states that Decia was then sent to Steve Biko Academic Hospital for further tests confirmed that her mother only qualified for palliative care to manage her pain due to the advanced stage of her illness. She died at the large academic hospital.

Merriam says she blames herself, her family and her mother’s doctors.

“I blame Jubilee Hospital and ourselves for the delay we caused,” she told OurHealth. “I think the doctors there (at Jubilee Hospital) should have booked her for an earlier surgery.”

Regular Pap smear tests can help detect cervical cancer early.

Currently, women older than 30 years old who are HIV-negative are only offered three free pap smears – or one pap smear every ten years – in the public sector. In 2010, South Africa introduced a policy to allow women living with HIV, who are a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, to access pap smears every three years.


About the author

Tshilidzi Tuwani

Tshilidzi Tuwani is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Gauteng's Tshwane Health District.

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