Updated 03 April 2017

Why cancer remains a taboo subject in SA

People living with cancer are subject to stigma and discrimination that may stop them from seeking care. Here are 14 myths and facts.


February is Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Month and ER24 is urging everyone to have regular physical examinations and health screening tests.

"ER24 is also calling on people to lead a healthier lifestyle to lower the risk of cancer," it said in a press release to mark World Cancer Day.

More than 100 000 people in South Africa are diagnosed with cancer annually, according to CANSA’s acting chief executive officer Elize Joubert.

Read: World Cancer Day 2015 - It's not beyond us

Research conducted by CANSA show that lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can play a vital role in lowering cancer risk.

It is stated that tobacco use, obesity, a poor diet, lack of physical activity and alcohol contribute to cancer risk. Infections and environmental pollutants also contribute to cancer.

Here are some warning signs for cancer:

- Change in a wart or mole
- Any continued fever
- Nagging cough or continued hoarseness
- Chronic pain in bones or any other area of the body
- Enduring fatigue, nausea or vomiting
- Repeated infection and/or inflammation
- Change in bowel or bladder habits
- A sore throat that does not heal
- Unusual discharge or abnormal bleeding
- Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles or elsewhere
- Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
- Obvious change in the size, colour, shape or thickness of a wart, mole or mouth sore
- Noticeable weight loss and loss of appetite

Test yourself: Am I at risk of cancer?

“Cancer remains a taboo subject and people living with cancer are subject to stigma and discrimination that may stop them from seeking care,” said founder and director of PinkDive Noelene Kotschan.

While there should be no shame about having cancer, a 2014 study found stigma was one of the primary reasons why people affected by cancer do not receive the care they need, said chief executive officer at Campaigning for Cancer Lauren Pretorius.

Watch: 11 women go bald for friend with cancer

Here are 14 cancer myths and facts:

Also read:

Coffee may protect against liver cancer
Many breast cancer patients lack info on their condition
Many cancer survivors have lingering problems


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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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