Updated 27 June 2016

National anti-stigma cancer campaign launched

A global cancer research study has found that communication is critical to decreasing cancer-related stigma and raising awareness around cancer.

A global cancer research study conducted in a number of low to middle income countries, including South Africa, focused on the general perceptions of cancer; stigma and myths about cancer; and evidence of and opportunities for progress.

The study found that communication was critical to decreasing cancer-related stigma, raising awareness around cancer and associated myths about the disease, and disseminating cancer education. The study also highlighted the use of survivor’s personal stories and multiple mass media channels as key resources for disseminating these awareness and education messages.

Findings by CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation indicate that more than 40% of South African children with cancer never reach a specialist centre for treatment, a trend that can mainly be attributed to a severely low level of awareness about the disease. Further aggravating the situation is a staggering amount of stigmas surrounding cancer, ultimately translating into delayed diagnoses and subsequent increased mortality.

Read: 4 cancer myths debunked

'Children don't get cancer'

“A common myth, identified from our work in communities, is that children do not get cancer and, if they do, only white children will suffer from the disease. With a total of 600 South African children diagnosed with the disease each year, approximately half of the collective worldwide figure, the research findings paints a bleak picture for our nation’s youth,” says Francois Peenz, Chief Executive Officer, CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.

In response, Campaigning for Cancer, PinkDrive, CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation, More Balls than Most and Hospice Palliative Care Association have joined forces with interested stakeholders in launching a national cancer anti-stigma campaign on World Cancer Day (04 February) at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital with the aim of educating, increasing awareness, exposing myths and encouraging early detection amongst South Africans. The campaign known as the Voice of Cancer Anti Stigma Project.

Read: Cancer in children

Stigmas and myths

“Our main objective is to reduce the stigmas associated with cancer through evidence based, culturally relevant and targeted interventions while significantly raising awareness of the disease, early detection and screening through existing health programmes and multiple mass media channels. A key focus will be placed on South Africa’s urban and peri-urban communities with the various stigmas and myths having a devastatingly strong foothold amongst this population,” explained Lauren Pretorius, Chief Executive Officer, at Campaigning for Cancer.

The launch included the Gauteng MEC of Health, the Honourable Hope Papo, corporate supporters of the project, healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, survivors and community members, in a collaborative resolve to stamp out the myths and stigmas surrounding cancer. Each stakeholder understanding the integral role they will play in the ultimate success of the Voice of Cancer Anti Stigma Project.

“Collective action is absolutely key in achieving our objectives. It will not be as simple as launching an awareness campaign. Partnering with local organisations, community leaders, Local and Provincial Departments of Health, healthcare practitioners and health service facilities, to name a few, will determine the ultimate success and long-term impact of the project. It is encouraging that key stakeholders attended the launch and we are confident that, together, we will be able to create a lasting conversation about cancer myths and stigma in South African communities,” Noelene Kotchan, Chief Executive Officer PinkDrive reiterates.

Read: Cancer - know your rights and responsibilities

World Cancer Day

The Cancer Anti Stigma Initiative will roll out over 3 years, commencing in 2014.

“World Cancer Day provides an opportunity to show our commitment to this project and the fight against cancer and we will strive to raise awareness on key issues in the spirit of improving general knowledge about this disease and the myths that surround it together with all willing stakeholders’ support” concluded Esme Pudule, spokesperson for Hospice Palliative Care Association.

Read more:

10 ways to prevent cancer

Top warning signs of cancer

Cancer and your diet


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