patients are now issued with three-month supplies of treatment, cutting down
the burden on clinics and patients. Now, breast cancer advocates want the same
for women battling the cancer.
Stage 2 breast cancer
53-year-old Nobuntu Rulashe from Soweto’s Snail Park was watching TV when a
breast cancer awareness advert came on. The advert promoted her to check her
breast for the lumps the lady on the TV described.
Read: Breast cancer: myths and facts
Less than a
year later in January 2012, she underwent tests at Chris Hani Baragwanath
Academic Hospital. On 14 March, Rulashe received word that tests confirmed that
she had stage 2 breast cancer. Although the news was terrifying, Rulashe
remembers her doctor at the hospital fondly
Moore released my results to me, she told me that she was going to help me,”
Rulashe remembers. “That gave me so much hope [that] later on I went to the
second counselling session… I was already brave and motivated.”
underwent surgery to remove her left breast just days later and started chemotherapy.
can still vividly recall the vomiting, hair loss and terrible aches in her
bones from treatment, she was officially cured of cancer in 2014.
Cuts cost and time
Cancer lobby group the Breast Health Foundation, many breast cancer survivors
like Rulashe are often prescribed the drug Tamoxifen for up to five years after
completing chemotherapy. Breast Health Foundation Chief Operating Officer
Louise Turner says the group now wants government to consider issuing patients
with three-month supplies of the treatment.
stable antiretroviral (ARV) patients are issued with three-month ARV supplies,
which cut costs and time associated with collecting what would otherwise be
monthly supplies of the drugs.
cancer patients deserve the same sort of consideration.
breast cancer survivors go onto (Tamoxifen) as an international standard of
care,” Turner said. “Currently, the challenge is that you only get a script for
a month in public hospitals.”
Read: Tamoxifen can save lives and money
“The patient has to take a day’s leave every
month to get their script,” she told Health-e News. “If a patient has already
used his or her 30 (leave) days per three-years cycle, it becomes unpaid leave
and most patients use more than 30 days once they are diagnosed with breast
that each clinic visit to collect treatment is also accompanied by transport
Rayne works at the Breast Health Clinic in Johannesburg’s Helen Joseph
Hospital. She says that taking leave from work and poverty are huge obstacles
for many patients.
facing challenges such as unemployment, and those that are working do not have
time to visit a clinic – all these factors delay [treatment],” said Rayne,
adding that with barriers like these lead some women to turn to traditional
healers following a breast cancer diagnosis. This too leads to deadly delays in
treatment. – Health-e News.
African American women
a recent Reuters Health article black American women face similar problems and
African American women are less likely than white women to take their
prescribed hormone medications. Part of the reason may be “economic disparities
between the races”.
are also less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, but
more are likely to die from it, and black women are also less likely to stick to
How to do a breast self exam
A better, less painful way to screen breasts
Diagnosed with breast cancer at 15
Image: Breast cancer ribbon from Shutterstock
Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.