A collaborative chat about Cancer in South Africa

Vanessa Carter
28 Nov 2017
20:30 SAST | 13:30 ET
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Start your answers with T1, T2, T3, T4 or CT for transcript purposes after the moderator prompts.
Both panel experts and attendees are encouraged to participate.
The public transcript is recorded by Symplur.

T1: What are the current issues affecting Cancer in South Africa or globally?
T2: What do you think needs to change to improve those issues?
T3: Are there any solutions like technology, policies, research initiatives or others that you think might be promising for Cancer? How?
T4: What social-economic determinants do Cancer patients battle most with? (e.g. child’s access to education when ill, limited support etc)

CT: Closing Thoughts – Is there anything you feel is important to add to this conversation?

Cancer rates in South Africa are expected to rise significantly over the next two decades.[1] In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase by more than 85% from 2008 to 2030.[2] By then, for every four deaths from HIV/AIDS in the region, there will be three deaths from cancer.[3] Along with a growing cancer burden, states will be confronted with rising and unaffordable prices for cancer medicines.

For example, while the volume of oncology medicines procured in South Africa remained the same between 2015 and 2016, private medical insurers spent an increasing share of their medicine expenditure on oncology treatments – from 8.8 to 9.3%.[4] Specialty medicines, in particular, pose a significant burden. One report found that speciality medicines used in oncology had an average cost of ZAR 23,533 per item in 2016. Indeed, oncology speciality medicines accounted for only 13% of speciality medicines by volume but made up 31% of expenditure for all speciality medicines.

The majority of cancer patients living in South Africa experience heavy financial strains, in some instances bankruptcy, due to unforeseen medical costs associated with the medical condition. According to stats from the National Cancer Registry (NCR), one in four South Africans are affected by cancer. More than 100 000 South Africans are diagnosed with cancer annually.

The costs for surgery, inpatient care, consultations and repetitive diagnostic and staging investigations have ratcheted up expenses exponentially, according to a report published in the South African Medical Journal in 2016. Due to these costs, medical aids are unable to cover many of the therapies and treatments. [5]

There has been widespread information about promising technologies and clinical trials for drugs like palbociclib and ribociclib, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Precision Medicine which many believe could help in the fight against Cancer. But what hurdles do we need to overcome in South Africa to have access to those technologies in future and what action can be taken now with initiatives such as the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Policy (NCCPP) and the Breast Cancer Prevention and Control Policy to empower patients and beat this devastating disease that could affect any one of us, at any time?


1. Injustice: World Health Organisation. World Cancer Report 2014.
Available at: http://www.who.int/cancer/publications/WRC_2014/en/
2. Morhason-Bello I et al. Challenges and opportunities in cancer control in Africa: a perspective from the African organization for Research and Training in Cancer. Lancet Oncology. 2013 Apr; 14: e142-51.
3. World Health Organisation. Global health estimates summary tables: Projection of deaths by cause, age and sex, by World Bank income group and WHO Region.
Available at: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/projections/en/ (accessed 9 October 2017).
4. Mediscor 2016 Medicines Report
5. Counting the cost of Cancer in South Africa: Aarti Bhana – Moneyweb


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Panel Experts
Thanks to our panel experts CANSA, Campaign4Cancer, The Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa, e-Patient and brain tumour survivor Claire Snyman and global expert Eduardo García-Toledano Mayoral – Vice President & General Counsel at the World Rare Disorders & Childhood Cancer Foundation.

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