Plans for new cancer unit in Mthatha

Plans for new cancer unit in MthathaFile Photo

People diagnosed with cancer living in the rural towns in the southern part of the Eastern Cape have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get treatment.

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The patients, many of whom don’t have family support or can afford to take relatives with them, have to go to Frere Hospital in East London.

But now the MEC of Health, Doctor Phumza Dyantyi, has promised that a new cancer unit will be opening soon in Mthatha.

MEC Phumza Dyantyi said that while there is currently a cancer unit in Mthatha, it offered only medical oncology services. But plans were now in place to launch a campaign that would see the Eastern Cape government help extend the services and bring them closer to the people by offering both medical and radiation oncology services.

“As the Health Department, we are planning to open a unit offering medical and radiation oncology services to treat a variety of cancers using state-of-the-art equipment. The process is currently in the design stage, and we are hoping that by the end of 2018/19 financial year phase one will be operating,” MEC Dyantyi said.

Cancer survivor

Margarete Nontuthuzelo Ndarane (68), a cancer survivor, said having to travel far from home had made things much worse for her when she was ill.

“I cried a lot. I had so many questions with no one to answer. I thought about my family, and felt like being away was showing them that they can survive without me if I didn’t make it. I wished that I had them closer to me because I am a single parent. I always heard that for us women, a good family is key in the fight against cancer. However I made it through,” she said, expressing happiness at the news of the new cancer unit in Mthatha.

“It is a great initiative which needs to be applauded. It may happen that for those who don’t win the battle with cancer, being away from their family could be a contributing factor (in their deaths) due to the lack of their support system,” Ndarane said.

Ndarane, who lives in a rural village, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011. In 2014 she was declared cancer free after being treated at Frere Hospital in East London.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.