Cancer in blacks rises
IGNORANCE about the disease and a lack of health facilities has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cancer patients in black communities.
Blacks accounted for 35% of the 282,413 people who tested positive for cancer between 2000 and 2004, the latest research by the National Institution for Occupational Health reveals.
Prostate and oesophagus cancers rated highest among black males, while cervix and breast cancers dominated in black females.
Doctors and traditional healers agree that what was once thought of as a "Western disease" has become one of the country's leading killers.
Pepsile Maseko, of the Traditional Healers Organisation, said the increase in black patients was caused by people adopting Western lifestyles and ignoring "preventative African methods".
"African culture instils preventative guidelines against such diseases. For example, a woman having her period should not have sex. The same goes for one who has just given birth," said Maseko.
Care4Cancer Campaign chief executive Lauren Pretorius said access to screening facilities and the stigma attached to cancer were some of the challenges faced by black communities.
"There is an increase in the number of black people with cancer. We don't know whether educational campaigns encourage people to come out," said Pretorius.
National Cancer Registry's Patricia Kellett said the number of black cancer patients had risen significantly since 2004.
"Added to this is a lack of diagnosis facilities, especially in rural areas. Unfortunately we can only record voluntary diagnosis done through laboratories of which there are only a handful," said Kellett.
She said legislation which will compel doctors to register all cancer diagnoses will be rolled out soon.
Johannesburg radiation oncologist Malik Gulzar said most of his cancer patients were black.
"The fact is 85% of the causes of cancer are lifestyle-related, while 15% is through inheritance. What shocks me is the number of people who still think that cancer is a white man's disease. That is not true," said Gulzar. - email@example.com