Early detection: CANSA joins hands with traditional practitioners

Early detection: CANSA joins hands with traditional health practitioners
What is causing the increase in cancer-related deaths in SA? (Photo: Freepik)

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), hopes to raise awareness of the importance of early cancer detection by equipping traditional health practitioners (THPs) with the necessary know-how to recognise early signs and symptoms.

CANSA Head of Advocacy, Zodwa Sithole, is in the process of training traditional health practitioners. The eight-week course which started late last month, will wrap up on 23 March 2022. Besides focusing on how important early detection is, the training also covers the prevalence of certain cancers, treatment and side effects. 

Greater equity

“The main aim is to promote greater equity in health care provision for all people affected by cancer. Cancer patients in our country may have different experiences regarding access to cancer services depending on their socio-economic status and where they live,” said Sithole.

“The aim of this training is to reach out to the ‘far’ to reach areas so that THPs are aware of the five top cancers and the importance of early detection and referrals. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO), states that early diagnoses of cancer focus on detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible. This ensures that they’ll have a chance at successful treatment.  When cancer care is delayed or inaccessible, there is a lower chance of survival and greater problems associated with treatment and care. 

Breast cancer tops the global list as the leading cancer (2.26 million cases), followed by lung, colon and rectum, prostate and skin.

CANSA closing the gap

“CANSA helps to close the gap by partnering with the National Department of Health and traditional healers. We believe that collaboration, education and the necessity for prompt initiation of effective treatments will save many lives,” stated Sithole.

Early detection: CANSA joins hands with traditional health practitioners
Traditional health practitioners learn about the importance of early detection of cancer during a CANSA training session. (Photo: CANSA)

So far, training has been conducted in the Free State, North West and Gauteng. Sithole said that once completed, all THPs will be in a position to make the right call.

Sithole noted that the attendance has been great and hoped that the attendees will impart their knowledge with their peers.

“Although these practitioners don’t diagnose, we are empowering them to recognise early signs and symptoms for early referral,” she added.

The Cancer Alliance’s study titled Cost of Cancer: Challenges for the next 10 years, states that timely cancer screening is associated with health care professionals who have positive attitudes, appropriate skills, and knowledge (Known as ASK).  By including THPs in ASK training, it is hoped that the stigmatisation of cancer in communities will decrease.

Training attendee reflects

Ben Radebe, a healer who has been practising for almost 40 years, attended the training in the North West. He said that transparency between THPs and health facilities can go a long way in early detection and treatment. 

“If I do not have enough information about a particular condition, I refer my patients. This training will ensure that we refer patients who we believe might have cancer to health professionals,” said Radebe. 

Transparency is crucial

“If we can work together, it will benefit our patients greatly. I urge all my fellow practitioners to be transparent and to work together with professional health practitioners to end our cancer burden. If we suspect that a particular patient might have cancer, it is our duty to refer them for further diagnoses. – Health-e News 


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