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Address Delivered by the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, During the Cancer Awareness Program held at Chinua Achebe Auditorium, University of Johannesburg, 15 October 2019

Programme Director

Senior Management

Distinguished Guests  

Ladies and Gentlemen


It’s my pleasure and privilege to address the 2019 Cancer Awareness Program here at UJ.

Today we meet to reflect on the scourge that is sweeping across the nook and cranny of our land.

It threatens to overwhelm both the public as well as the private sector health systems.

The effect and extent of this carnage is catastrophic in so many ways because it targets the pillars of a typical South African home, women.

The human cost of this tragedy is yet to be quantified. But, we do know its devastating effects on victims, surviving children, husbands and society at large. It’s heart-breaking.  

I am talking about Cancer. Cancer is a malignant growth or tumour resulting from an uncontrolled division of cells.

According to statistics from the National Cancer Registry (NCR) 2014, the top five Cancers affecting women in SA include: breast, cervical, colorectal, uterine and lung Cancer.  

One in 27 women would have breast Cancer in their lifetime.  

Both breast and cervical Cancer have been identified as a national priority with increasing incidences occurring.

It’s important to define Cancer for what it is.

Cancer is not a punishment for your sins you committed as a youngster, curses because of your infidelity, and/or because you’re of people of little faith.

It’s not a sign of weakness. You can’t treat Cancer using some ‘holy water’ or some other self-help kit you bought on the internet.

Importantly, once you have a Cancer diagnosis, just know you haven’t been bewitched by your neighbour who hates your guts.  

Cancer is a disease, call it a side-effect of being alive. There’s nothing personal about it.

It is not a disease of white people, the rich, poor or black people. Cancer affects everybody, the young, and old alike.

We are all at risk. It doesn’t mean we can’t do something to minimise the risks and mitigate against it effects.  I will talk about these later.

I am a Cancer survivor. I should know.

Cancer is not some conspiracy theory conjured up by the pharmaceutical industry so as to make a quick buck. 

Cancer is a serious disease and, it kills.

Research indicates that in 2013, deaths from breast Cancer and Cancers of the female genital tract, accounted for 0.7% and 1% of all deaths in South African respectively. That’s close to 100 000 people per year.

I am a Cancer survivor. I should know.

Programme Director hence we meet today to talk openly and empower each other regarding this significant risk to the health of the nation.

The risk posed by Cancer has serious repercussions beyond our homes, it affects the productivity of the South Africa’s economy.

For women, breast Cancer is the most prevalent across the board, with Discovery Medical Aid Scheme reporting an incidence of 128 Cancer cases per 100 000 in 2017 alone.

I am part of these statistics. I am a breast Cancer survivor.

It is for this reason that South Africa as a country has been designated October as 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month.'

This is an attempt for a nationwide drive by public and private healthcare structures to raise awareness of this debilitating disease that affects everybody across all races and classes.

Did you know that Cancer causes more deaths in South Africa than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined?  

Well at least, according to the 2017 Discovery Report, its Cancer incidence rate - the number of new Cancer diagnoses per 100 000 people a year was found to be  higher than that for the South African population.  

In 2017, 7597 Discovery members were newly diagnosed with Cancer, which equates to an incidence of 277 new cases per 100 000 lives. The incidence is up from 251 in 2011, an increase of 10%.

However, women are more prone than men to getting Cancer earlier in life.

Men experience a significantly higher number of new Cancer diagnoses compared with women from 56 years of age and older, whereas rates of new diagnosis are higher for women than men in the 35-to-55 age bracket, the report says.

For women, breast Cancer is the most prevalent across the board, with Discovery reporting an incidence of 128 per 100 000 in 2017.

However, in second and third place to breast Cancer, are cervical/uterine Cancer and lung Cancer.

Facts about breast Cancer:

  • Breast Cancer need not be a life sentence.
  • Early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.
  • About 90% of patients survive for many years after diagnosis when breast Cancer is detected at the early stages.
  • Regular self-breast examination and regular mammograms are key to early detection.
  • Presenting yourself early for treatment may result in more effective treatment, leading to a reduction in pain and suffering and a significant decrease in the loss of life.
  • Awareness of the symptoms, and early detection through screening, can help lead to earlier diagnosis, resulting in improved treatment outcomes.
  • Awareness of risk factors, can help women reduce their personal Cancer risk.

Risk factors:

  • The risk for breast Cancer increases as women grow older, but many women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast Cancer.
  • All women are at risk, and in particular women with a family history of breast Cancer.
  • Being overweight, inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals also increases risk.

Survivor’s Testimony

Let me tell you about my battle with Breast Cancer.


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Date Posted: 10/24/2019
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