Food for thought

bigstockphoto_making_statisticsThis blog has been showing you that you are not alone on your breast cancer journey, and we would have loved to have been able to let you know exactly how many people in South Africa are affected by breast cancer.

Sadly, those statistics are not available and the best we can do is to give you figures from eight years ago.

The most recent figures we have are from 2005, where the Age Standardised Incidence Rate for men was 0,84 per 1000 000 men. For women it was much higher, at 28,88 per 100 000 women.

In 2005, 122 men and 5674 women in South Africa were reported to have breast cancer.

Of all the cancers affecting women in South Africa, breast cancer was the most common.

According to the Cancer Regulations of 2011, cancers in South Africa should be reported to the National Cancer Registry. This registry is not functioning properly, and is only a pathology based register.

We also lack comparable death statistics. Cancer is often seen as a secondary cause of death so is not accurately reported.

We can’t give you good news about survival rates either. To do that we would need to be able to look at both the morbidity (incidence) as well as the mortality (death) rate.

The problem is obviously much more serious than us not being able to give you stats on this blog. All these gaps in our knowledge mean that we are not able to plan effectively. We do not have a standardised breast health policy: each province is doing its own thing. We do not have tertiary treatment facilities in all nine provinces. These are available only in Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State so the other provinces need to refer their patients to these facilities. This means that breast cancer waiting lists for surgery can be between 3 –6 months in the public sector.

So, going on the 2005 figures, if 5674 women and 122 men are diagnosed each year, how many have been treated effectively?

If you are having problems accessing services, please contact the Cancer Alliance through this blog. Add our comment or question below.

We’d also like to encourage you to get involved with the advocacy teams which are working to improve cancer treatment and services in South Africa. Go to the ‘about us’ page on this blog to find links to the organisations working in this area.

We’d love it if you would engage with us on the posts in this blog. Please leave a comment by either logging in through your Facebook, Twitter or other supported social media account, or simply by adding your name and email address.

Your email address will never be made public and you’re welcome to use an anonymous name too.

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