According to the South African Government, the incidence of breast cancer among South African women is increasing and it is one of the most common cancers among women in the country.
Various support divisions and academic departments advocating for employee and students wellness at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) marked Breast Cancer Month with the launch of a Cancer Awareness Project at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus’s Library on 15 October 2019. The purpose of this event was to equip both male and female students with knowledge about cancer and quelling stigmas about the disease.
A diverse panel of experts from various sectors shared their insights on cancer, with some people narrating their experiences of treating and surviving it. They included Professor Alex Broadbent (Executive Dean: Faculty of Humanities); Mr Sibusiso Mdletshe (Head of Department: Medical Imaging, Faculty of Health Sciences); Ms Naniki Seboni of Cancervive, Ms Thandi Mphahlele a cancer survivor, and Mr Neo “Artis_Tek” Bookholane (a Hip hop artist and digital strategist). Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister: Basic Education, also attended the event.
Minister Motshekga shared the story of how she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said that initially she was denial, but after a while she realised that she needed help. “You can’t treat cancer like a scratch on the surface,” she said, reiterating the importance of family, friends’ colleagues’ support in fighting the disease.
Another woman who survived breast cancer at the event was Ms Thandi Mphahlele. She was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer at the age of 30. She also mentioned that while medical treatment was necessary, she echoed Minister Motshekga’s sentiments on family and friends’ support as the best treatment one can have while fighting cancer.
Mr Mdletshe said that it was important to detect cancer early, through testing. He spoke about auto penectomy which causes penile loss, as well as talking about the different side effects of the types of cancer treatments.
Mr Bookholane, who was the youngest in the panel, said: “I am not a survivor of cancer; I consider myself a conqueror. Cancer survived me,” he said. At age 17-18, he felt severe back pains, and as usual he took pain killers to suppress the pain. After a couple of years, he then learned that he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that attacks your white blood cells. He encouraged students to go for health check-ups regularly, emphasizing the importance of good health.
Ms Seboni, a stage 3 survivor, shared the following message: 1. Cancer is not contagious. 2. Cancer is not a curse or a punishment. 3. Cancer is not a white/old person disease. 4. Cancer is not a death sentence. 5. Cancer does not make you any less of a person. 6. Cancer can be cured if detected early.
The most common questions that were asked related to access to information for people who live in the rural areas, funding for NGOs that help fight cancer, and the types of food that people should eat to prevent getting sick.
This event was a collaboration between UJ’s Primary Healthcare Service division, the Library, Institutional Office for HIV and Aids and UJ Strategic Communications Department.
For more information on health matters, contact the UJ Primary Healthcare Service on Kingsway 0115593837 / Bunting Road Campus 1238 / Doornfontein Campus 6544 / Soweto Campus 5571.