Defining sustainable health systems for cancer patients in South Africa


Moderator: Vanessa Carter
Date: 1 November 2018
20:30 SAST | CAT
How to participate

Facebook event reminder

T1: What are some of the barriers cancer patients face in South Africa?
T2: What do you think the government could do to close gaps for cancer patients in South Africa?
T3: What gaps are there in South Africa in terms of improving patient outcomes? (eg. Better data)
T4: How could citizens play a role in advocating for, or preventing cancer?
T5: How do you think e-Health or other technologies could empower cancer patients?
CT: Closing Thoughts: Is there anything you would like to add?

Join us for a 60-minute Twitter chat with our panel experts. All stakeholders including doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, policymakers, patients and advocates, academics, pharma, medical educators, students, payers, IT developers, data scientists, civil society, NPO’s, researchers etc.  locally and globally are welcome. The transcript for this chat will be recorded using the hashtag #hcsmSA by Symplur.

Start your answers with T1, T2, T3, T4 and CT for transcript purposes.
Answer only after the moderator prompts. Questions will be prompted every 10 minutes, but keep answers coming using the relevant T and number. Both panel experts and the public are encouraged to answer.
Use the #hcsmSA geo-hashtag in all your tweets so that you are visible to others in the chat and captured on transcript. 

Defining sustainable health systems for cancer patients in South Africa
Because partnerships form an integral part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs) through Goal 17, this month #hcsmSA will be supporting the Cancer Alliance of South Africa by using our 60-minute Twitter chat to talk about issues affecting cancer patients locally.

Cancer is a complex, life-threatening disease which affects millions of South Africans. Managing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) particularly cancer forms a central part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Advancing cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment in high-income countries mean cancer-related deaths are likely to remain stable in these nations. By contrast, about 70% of global cancer mortality occurs in low-income countries and current estimates predict that deaths from cancer in these countries will grow from 5·5 million at present to 8·9 million in 2030. A global strategic plan is required to improve cancer services sustainably in low-income countries and should focus on preventive strategies and innovative service delivery models [1].

Cancer rates in South Africa are expected to rise significantly over the next two decades. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase by more than 85% from 2008 to 2030. By then, for every four deaths from HIV/AIDS in the region, there will be three deaths from cancer. Along with a growing cancer burden, states will be confronted with rising and unaffordable prices for cancer medicines [2].

Besides a break-down of public health services in multiple regions including in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng causing a backlog and long waiting lists for patients [3], policymakers also play a major role in establishing laws that are empowering for patients and their families. Additionally, a shortage of trained oncology doctors, nurses, physicists and radiotherapists alongside suitable equipment hinder any hopes of health system improvement.

Patent laws further lead to high prices for cancer drugs which the majority of South African citizens cannot afford. Thousands of cancer patients in South Africa are dying because they cannot afford medicines that are available in other countries at a fraction of the price. These patients are not getting the treatment that they need because our government routinely grants patents that could have been challenged and rejected [4]. A pharmaceutical patent is an exclusive right granted by the government to the applicant for an invention. A patent can be applied by the inventor or any other person/company assigned by the inventor. It is the right to exclude others from unauthorized making, using, offering to sell, selling or importing the invention [5].

In a recent patent law report compiled by activists in South Africa including the Cancer Alliance, data showed that 24 cancer medicines have no generic competition locally and it was concluded that 15 were available in India for less than half the private sector price. The most extreme case was Celgene’s blood cancer drug lenalidomide, branded Revlimid, which costs R882 000 for a year’s supply in South Africa in the private sector but just R32 000 in India. This means that South Africa’s private sector patients are paying 27 times more than those in India [6].

Of course, prevention is always better than cure and therefore promoting action within the population to lower the risks of getting cancer play a major role too. This can include the promotion of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing [7]. Whether or not authorities are playing enough of a role in this regard in comparison to advocacy groups is also questionable and perhaps worth discussing openly as South Africa begins to prepare itself for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and our National Health Insurance (NHI).

During this 60-minute chat, we hope to understand the many barriers patients and their families experience in the South African health system. The Cancer Alliance is a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and advocates brought together under a common mandate; to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to affect change for all South African adults and children affected by cancer. Continue the conversation about Cancer in South Africa after this #hcsmSA geographic Twitter chat by using their registered healthcare hashtag #LetsTalkAboutCancer.



Healthcare social media (hcsm) hashtags and global communities related to Cancer:
#CancerAwareness #CancerSupport #LetsTalkAboutCancer



Panel Experts:
The chat session is open to everyone to participate, however, our panel experts bring a unique set of perspectives relating to the topic.

Salome Meyer – @SalomeMeyer1 

Salome is a Cancer advocate with over 20-years experience and a managing member of the Cancer Alliance South Africa

Addi Lang – @addilang
Addi is a breast cancer warrior, wavemaker and advocate of change as founder of the Forever Changed Global Awareness Campaign. Together with her life partner David Salomon (Co-founder) they have made significant strides forward over the past 4 years.  IFP Chief Whip in Parliament, Mr Narend Singh, MP, stated recently at the National Assembly in Parliament, “The Forever Changed Global Awareness Campaign has brought to our attention, the urgent necessity for a cancer policy in the workplace. The Inkatha Freedom Party stands in full acknowledgement and support of efforts to introduce a formal cancer policy in the workplace. Cancer policy in the workplace now forms a key component of IFP Labour and Health policy in going forward, until this matter is adequately addressed and accommodated by the labour law regime in South Africa”.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) – @CANSA
A leader in the fight against cancer in SA, since 1931, the purpose of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), is to offer a unique, integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit leader that enables research with regards to lowering cancer risk, educating the public regarding symptoms, screening and risk reduction, and providing care and support to all people affected by cancer. Furthermore, our Advocacy team performs a Watchdog Role striving to ensure that South African policymakers are influenced with regards to important cancer control issues, and patients’ right to healthcare is protected.

Kyara Bergstrom – @PinkParasol

Kyara is the Chief Operating Officer of The Pink Parasol Project which is a digital platform to help patients navigate health care services as well as to find reliable information. Kyara is also head of research & complimentary care at the Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence at Milpark Hospital.

Linda Greef – @LindaCancerAdvocate
Linda has been an oncology social worker for 30 years and is also an ovarian cancer survivor for 29 years.
She is also manager of oncology social work for CancerCare and the chairperson of the Cancer Alliance South Africa.

Terri Wingham – @afreshchapter
Following treatment for breast cancer, Terri Wingham found herself grappling with unexpected feelings of isolation, fear of recurrence, and depression. Searching for something that would inspire her again, she signed up for a volunteer trip to Africa and the dream for A Fresh Chapter was born. A Fresh Chapter is a non-profit dedicated to healing the emotional scars of cancer. We combine domestic or international volunteerism with programs designed to reframe adversity, foster connections, and promote personal growth and development. Our vision is a world where our experiences with cancer empower us to seek new purpose and possibility in our lives.

Breast Health Foundation – @BreastBhf
The Breast Health Foundation, which is a Not for Profit Company, was established in April 2002 in conjunction with several companies and organisations to educate the public on Breast Cancer and breast health, increase awareness and empower women.
Its founding was facilitated by individuals who held deep concerns around women’s health issues in South Africa and had the intentions to educate the public on breast health issues in general and Breast Cancer in particular.


  1. Chats are public. Even if you use a platform like, they still show on your timeline. Think before you tweet! Read more about maintaining a good digital footprint here.
  2. Please respect other members of the community and show courtesy at all times.
    Refer to the Twitter Terms and Conditions of use. Disrespectful behaviour can be reported.
  3. Don’t be afraid to lurk, although participation is always encouraged, even if the topic is not within your expertise, your voice matters.
  4. Visit to check out the analytics and transcript which is open to the public.
  5. If you don’t understand a question from the moderator, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarity!
  6. Use this opportunity to network with other stakeholders and follow them on Twitter.
  7. When entering the Twitter chat, first introduce yourself and tell other members what you do so they get to know you.
  8. If you agree with a members perspective in a chat, go ahead and retweet (RT) them to show you support their idea.
  9. The chat runs for 60 minutes, but you can join in at any time.
  10. Start answers with the relevant T’s and number for transcript purposes.
  11. Answer each question after the moderator prompts but keep answers coming even if we move onto the next one. We don’t want to miss out on your views!
  12. Both panel experts and attendees are invited to participate because everyone’s perspective counts.
  13. Use the hashtag (#hcsmSA) in all of your tweets or you won’t be visible in the chat.
  14. More information about how to participate in a Twitter chat can be read here

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