Breast cancer

Updated 14 October 2013

SA women climb Kilimanjaro to raise breast cancer awareness

Early detection of breast cancer can save lives.

South African Woman climb Kilimanjaro and are doing it to raise awareness of breast cancer: 15 brave women, four of whom are cancer survivors, say they are raring to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa over the next week to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“The expedition is very close to all of our hearts,” says Rebecca Musi who works at the Breast Health Foundation (BHF) at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg and is herself a breast cancer survivor. “We want to draw attention to breast health issues and hope to raise funds for the BHF, which is a non-profit organisation that seeks to create awareness of breast cancer and support to those affected by the disease.”

The women, all from Gauteng, left for East Africa last Tuesday night and will be returning to South Africa on 17 October. They are scheduled to make the summit on Tuesday 15 October. According to Musi, all have diligently trained and are looking forward to the challenge.  “We will take the climb slowly and steadily to help us to adapt to the altitude on Africa’s highest peak,” she notes.

The expedition was organised by BHF and all the women in the team are volunteers aiming to equip South African women with knowledge about breast health issues and the importance of taking proactive steps to reduce their risk. Musi and fellow climber, Ntokozo Dludla, are thought to be the first Black South African breast cancer survivors to attempt to summit Kilimanjaro.

Musi was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago at the age of 49. “I was aware that cancer existed but I didn’t really know anything about breast cancer and how many people’s lives it affected. To be diagnosed with it myself therefore came as great shock. I had no point of reference and wasn’t sure of the implications. I also did not know where to find support. Gradually as I underwent treatment I met others who were going through similar experiences.

They were tremendously encouraging and supportive and I found I didn’t have to go through this difficult journey on my own. I am pleased to say that BHF now assists women to better understand their condition and meet others with whom they are able to share their experiences.” Musi underwent surgery at the Breast Care Centre at Netcare Milpark Hospital, followed by ten months of radiation treatment. She admits it was a tough time but is happy that she is in remission and loves every second of her life.

“Having gone through this experience myself I feel I must share my knowledge with other women. Part of my work at BHF is to educate people about breast health issues. Women firstly need to know that this disease can usually be successfully treated today. However, early detection is vital so we all need to become more aware of breast cancer and its symptoms. For those who are diagnosed with the disease it is also important to be aware that you do not have to go through the experience alone. There are other women who are going through very similar experiences and organisations such as BHF are also there to assist.”

Musi says that the Mount Kilimanjaro climb is a challenge to which she is particularly looking forward. “The trip will give us courage and endurance, which breast cancer sufferers need when they experience the disease and undergo treatment. We will also have to ensure that we work together and support one another if we are to ascent to the summit. It is important to have support to help you to get through the disease.”

Mande Toubkin, a BHF board member and general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment at Netcare, says that she has the greatest respect for the 15 courageous women and their efforts to bring to light breast health issues. “Breast cancer need not inspire the same degree of dread it once did. Greater awareness of the disease and its symptoms could result in early detection and successful treatment, ultimately saving many lives. Let us as women be sure to take care of this important aspect of our health by doing monthly breast self examinations and having regular mammograms.”

For more information Contact Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney or Sarah Beswick Telephone (011) 469 3016 or Email, or


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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