Cancer pilot project targets nurses first

About 400 female nurses will be assessed and tested for cancer in the next few days.

A project designed to improve the health of women was officially launched in Khayelitsha District Hospital (KHD) on Monday morning.

The clinical breast examination (CBE) pilot project aims to reduce illness and death related to breast cancer. It will be offered immediately to 400 nurses at the Khayelitsha Hospital with plans to eventually expand the programme to women in the community and elsewhere.

Data gathered from the screening is uploaded electronically onto Cloudvein where the information will be kept confidential and the company will be informed as to how many women had a CBE and how many were referred for further investigation due to breast problems. The programme is the result of collaboration between healthcare partners, among them Phakamisa and AstraZeneca Access to Health Initiative, Breast Health Foundation, Tygerberg and Khayelitsha Hospitals and Medical students from Stellenbosch.

Phakamisa is AstraZeneca’s access to healthcare initiative in South Africa.

Doctor Jenny Edge is head of the Breast and Endocrine Unit at the Tygerberg Hospital and director of Breast Course 4 Nurses, an NPO that trains primary health care providers to manage patients with breast problems.

She called on women working at the hospital to come and have breast assessment and to ensure they’re educated about breast care.

“We are offering breast education and examinations to all female employers at KHD. Anybody that works here can come to have their necessary test and investigation. We also use it to educate. We use it to access everybody to screen them for breast cancer. We are also using it as a teaching opportunity for the sisters who are part of the specialist training course,” she said.

Dr Edge said the plan was to go to the community after they had finished screening the initial 400 women.

Phakamisa’s market access director Dr Ruth Field, said her organisation promoted disease awareness, early diagnosis and effective access to care for breast and prostate cancer. She added that equitable healthcare should not depend on whether one has money or not.

While the initiative was about non-communicable disease, she said, the focus of the campaign was on cancer because that was where the burden of disease was.

She said Phakamisa has three pillars, the first of which is education and community awareness.

“We found that some of the nurses were not educated enough. The second pillar is the healthcare training pillar. You get there with a tumour but they cannot help you. So how do we prevent that, how do we train those health practitioners so that at the end of the day you are treated very early?” she asked.

The third pillar is a partnership with the national health department, provinces and civil society to ensure access to healthcare.

“The third pillar is about access. When you get to the hospital, do you have access to treatment, to radiation, to counselling, do you have access to all those innovative things?

“That is what we are doing with this project here. We completely believe as a patient, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how much money you don’t have. If you got cancer you got cancer. There should not be a difference in terms of a patient going to the public or belonging to medical aid. The treatment must be the same,” she said.

The chief executive officer of the KDH David Binza said after the nurses had been trained, the campaign would be taken to the community, with the media being used to spread awareness.

“Today marks a very significant step in terms of improving the health of women. We want to increase awareness of breast cancer. We empower nurses on how to do breast examinations. We all know that breast cancer continues to be a serious health problem,” he said.

Dr Jenny Edge during the launch at the Khayelitsha District Hospital.
Representatives of the partners involved in the clinical breast examination pilot project launched at Khayelitsha District Hospital recently.