The Department of Health has invested in oncology services infrastructure in order to address challenges related to cancer related services in the public sector.
The investment includes the acquisition of equipment for diagnosis and treatment at existing and new cancer treatment centres, and an increased number of new linear accelerators.
Health spokesperson, Popo Maja, said the department is finalising innovative processes to decentralise access to chemotherapy, especially in rural areas, and is also engaging private and other partners to address backlogs that existed previously, and were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The process of developing and strengthening palliative care services in provinces has commenced, and the National Cancer Registry is establishing Population Based Cancer Registries, which will inform enhanced planning and monitoring of services, "Maja said.
Maja acknowledged that more work still needs to be done to "create access to human rights-based cancer care to all communities on an equitable basis".
As the country kick-starts the COVID-19 vaccine rollout programme, the department urged citizens to continue to access other health services, including regular screening and testing for cancer for early detection and effective treatment.
The department reminded people about the significance of regular cancer screening and testing, together with treatment adherence, during the period of the pandemic to achieve better health outcomes.
The department acknowledged the disruptions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in accessing essential health services along the continuum of cancer care and other non-communicable diseases.
Catch-up plan to address backlogs
Maja said catch-up plans have been developed, in cooperation with provinces, to address the backlogs.
"It is an undisputable fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our normal lives, including access to healthcare services, which resulted in referral pathways interruptions and delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment.
"However, the public is reminded that healthcare facilities remain accessible at all times and compliance with COVID-19 prevention methods is always enforced. In this regard, we express appreciation to many cancer care teams in the public sector, who worked tirelessly to ensure the continuation of services under difficult circumstances," Maja said.
He said health service delivery, including oncology services, was significantly impacted during the early months of the pandemic, as some patients avoided crowded public spaces, including health facilities, due to fear of possible infection.
Maja urged patients with cancer, including patients with other non-communicable diseases, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and treatment adherence while complying with all preventative measures.
"All our communities must be made aware that many of the leading causes of cancer, including use of tobacco and tobacco products, harmful use of alcohol, air pollution and obesity are avoidable."
World Cancer Day
Meanwhile, South Africa joined the rest of global community on Thursday to commemorate World Cancer Day.
World Cancer Day is observed annually on 4 February to raise awareness about cancer and the stigma associated with the disease.
This year’s World Cancer Day was commemorated under the theme 'I Am and I Will', which serves as a commitment to act and encourage everyone to rally behind government, the private sector and civil society in their efforts to reduce cancer risk factors, overcome barriers to screening, early diagnosis, effective treatment and palliative care, and rehabilitation.