The Ditto project is an initiative run by Reach for Recovery to provide indigent women access to a silicone prosthesis which helps to restore her self-image and confidence after the traumatic breast cancer diagnosis and surgery.
Surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis may involve part or all of a breast being removed (mastectomy). Having a mastectomy leads to a tier of decision making regarding whether to have surgical reconstruction, wear an external breast prosthesis, or not wear anything at all to replace the amputated breast. External breast prosthesis may be the best option a woman has, especially if she cannot afford to undergo reconstructive surgery. However, not all patients can afford the cost of a permanent prosthesis.
Reach for Recovery believes that all women who have had breast cancer surgery should have access to appropriate breast prostheses, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. The reality is that many breast cancer patients in South Africa cannot even afford a bra, let alone a breast prosthesis. Reach for Recovery wants to help these women who come from low income groups to feel confident again after the traumatic diagnoses and surgery. We believe that a breast prosthesis is an important step in her recovery, especially to those women from communities where a there is still a stigma attached to a cancer diagnoses. A more natural appearance with a breast prosthesis, together with the emotional support that she can continue to receive from Reach for Recovery volunteers through support groups, will help her to return to her place of employment and continue to provide for her family.
Any breast cancer patient who can present a current Provincial Hospital Card qualifies for access to subsidised silicone prosthesis. The patient is asked to make a donation of R80 towards the project (R160 in case of a bilateral). However, no patient has ever been turned away because she could not afford to make a donation. The prosthesis may be replaced after three years.
Unfortunately Reach for Recovery cannot provide the paying customer with an invoice to claim back from their medical aid as we do not have a Medical Practice Number. However, we do offer as much support as possible in terms of general information on local and international manufacturers, suppliers etc.
The Ditto Project started in 2011. Since then, a total of 3235 silicone prostheses costing more than R2 million were given to women who could not afford one. Many women donated a small amount (R80) as a token of their gratitude, but we also supported women who could not afford any donation at all.
Apart from state patients, a growing number of women only have a Hospital Plan which does not cover breast prostheses. Pensioners are particularly hard hit.
We have also seen a steady increase in the number of women needing silicone prostheses since 2011: from 475 in 2011 to 930 in 2015. There is without doubt a growing need for this service. Unfortunately a silicone prosthesis is guaranteed to last for only two years; therefore we are also experiencing women returning to Reach for Recovery to have their prostheses replaced.
The need for silicone prostheses for newly referred breast cancer patients plus the need for replacements impacts heavily on the funds that we use to subsidise these products. A needs analysis has shown that we would subsidise at least 1000 women with a new silicon breast prosthesis in the new financial year. This includes women who would need a replacement.
We are extremely thankful to our donors who help us to ensure the sustainability of this project!
Reach to Recovery is one of the breast cancer organisations that is a part of ABC.