President Jacob Zuma says breast cancer remains a serious problem and it is crucial that South Africa gives its utmost attention to the cancer as it affects scores of women in the country.
He said cancer is emerging as one of the major public health problems, not only in the country but in Africa as a whole. The President said this at the launch of the Warriors Walk for Cancer initiative led by first lady Tobeka Madiba-Zuma’s foundation.
“The rates of breast and cervical cancer in the developing countries are rapidly increasing due to the impact of risk factors associated with changing lifestyles,” said President Zuma.
He said women in Africa suffer in many cases from non-responsive health services but perhaps what is more disturbing is the fear and stigma associated with cancer.
“Women suffer from being discriminated against by their communities, ostracized by their partners or husbands and painful deaths from cancer. Cultural barriers and taboo about surgery especially of the breast,” said President Zuma. He noted that beyond government, civil society initiatives are also helpful in raising awareness and providing support to women.
“We have to mobilise much of our resources as a collective to ensure that we eradicate breast and cervical cancer. Government, through the Department of Health, is already doing this.
“One of the important interventions is ensuring that our women have equitable access to quality healthcare. Crucial is ensuring that women are diagnosed early enough to save their lives,” he said. The Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation’s Annual Warriors Walk for Cancer contributes to raising awareness about cancer.
Cancer not just about statistics
President Zuma said for most families, the walk is about more than just raising money or awareness. “Let us remember that cancer is not about statistics, it is about people, families, and communities. It is about our loved ones.
“The walk is to honour a loved one lost to the disease, to celebrate another who survived and to support those who continue to fight against it… this walk will provide a platform to talk to women and disseminate information but also inform them about the right lifestyle choices,” said the President.
Most cancers, including breast and cervical cancer were attributable to lifestyle choices such bad eating, smoking, alcohol abuse, among others. President Zuma urged people to take responsibility for their health and assist government in the fight against illnesses.
“We cannot act irresponsibly and smoke, drink alcohol, not exercise and put on excess weight. If we do so, we place our lives at risk for the early onset of these non- communicable diseases so largely preventable.”
President Zuma said citizens needed to meet government half way in attempts to strengthen preventive measures, re-emphasising that “Prevention is better than cure”.
“Since 2009, we worked tirelessly to ensure that among non-communicable diseases, cancer and other non-communicable diseases featured prominently on the agenda of the UN General Assembly Development Summit on MDGs in September 2010, as well as the UN High Level Summit on NCDs held September 2011,” said President Zuma.
Government would continue forming strategic alliances with the relevant stakeholders so as to move through the breadth and width of South Africa.
It was also important to ensure that women’s cancers are not seen in isolation but joined with other existing services such child care, HIV and the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.
“We therefore need a close working relationship with civil society, business, government, traditional healers and faith based organisations.
“My wish is to see us all come together to support and empower each other. South Africans – and South African women in particular – have a generosity of spirit that I am yet to feel anywhere else in the world.”

News Reporter