This 4th February is World Cancer Day. According to data collated from members of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA) at the end of 2021; no fewer than 5,120 people were assisted post-cancer diagnoses, with 4,293 receiving care across 52 hospices.
Says Ewa Skowronska, CEO of the HPCA: “Despite the importance of palliative care being available to any individual diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, we find that this care is often misunderstood and considered to be ‘end-of-life’ care. It is, in fact, the holistic care provided to anyone with a life-threatening illness, and it starts with diagnosis. In 2021, 53 different types of cancers were tracked in addition to those diagnosed with either TB or HIV – all of whom are receiving care.”
The last update to the South African National Cancer Registry was in 2019. At that time, the total number of cancer cases reported across the population was 85,373 – an increase of 3,728 from the previous registry update in 2017.
“If we are to take those outdated figures and compare them to the number of individuals cared for in hospices in 2021, it is quite evident that there are a lot of people falling through the cracks in terms of palliative care,” says Skowronska.
Leigh Meinert, Advocacy Manager of the HPCA says: “Palliative care is offered to both the diagnosed individual as well as their family and loved ones. Hospices are often understood to be a building where terminally ill patients are cared for. However they are, in fact, organisations that provide at-home or in-patient care (according to the hospice) to anyone affected by a life-threatening diagnosis. Hospice is a philosophy, not a building.”
According to Zodwa Sithole, Head of Advocacy at CANSA, cancer patients should be referred for palliative care from diagnosis. “Palliative care provides holistic care to the patients e.g. physical, spiritual and psychosocial. Unfortunately, these referrals are not taking place due to a misconception of palliative care and the lack of palliative care training amongst health care professionals.”
“The message needs to reach both the general public and the medical and healthcare sectors that quality palliative care is critical for the wellbeing of a cancer patient and their loved ones,” concludes Skowronska. “It is also critical in terms of providing the best possible medical care. Each hospice has a multidisciplinary health care team that includes a medical doctor, professional nurse, social worker and home-based carers. This team works with the patient’s own specialist or oncologist to ensure a good quality of life for patients who have been diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses as well as to prevent and relieve unnecessary suffering.”
For more information on palliative care, or to refer to a hospice, visit: www.hpca.co.za. For information on courses run by the HPCA, visit: https://hpca.co.za/accredited-and-holistic-palliative-care-courses/
About World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day takes place every year on 4th February and is the uniting global initiative under which the world comes together to raise the profile of cancer in a positive and inspiring way. Spearheaded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and improving education about the disease while calling for action from governments and individuals across the world.
World Cancer Day 2022 is led by the theme “Close the care gap”, recognising the power of knowledge and challenging assumptions. This first year of a new three-year campaign on equity, raises awareness about lack of equity in cancer care and barriers that exist for many people in accessing services and receiving the care they need.
For more information, please visit: www.worldcancerday.org
About the HPCA
The Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA) is a registered NPO in South Africa. Founded in 1987, the HPCA is a member organisation for South African hospices. As a national charity, the association champions and supports around 89 member organisations that provide hospice services to approximately 100,000 people per year. HPCA’s member hospices across South Africa care for patients with a variety of life-threatening diseases, predominantly in the comfort of their own homes.
HPCA’s mission is to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement for all living with a life-threatening illness – which includes Covid-19. This entails providing medical care, psychosocial care, and spiritual support, as well as end-of-life support. Each hospice has a multidisciplinary health care team that includes a medical doctor, professional nurse, social worker and home-based carers. All hospice staff are trained in palliative care which aims to ensure a good quality of life for patients who have been diagnosed with life -limiting illnesses and to prevent and relieve unnecessary suffering. Care also extends to families, especially after their loved ones have died and as they process their grief.
Hospices provide holistic care to people affected by life-threatening diseases, regardless of whether they can afford to pay for this or not. To date only 18% of patients who need palliative care are able to access these services.