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Better treatments for cancer

THE Health Department says it is abandoning pap smears and will now offer a more sensitive test for cervical cancer.

Speaking during the launch of the national cancer campaign in Pietermaritzburg yesterday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said a sensitive test called liquid based cytology would now be made available in public healthcare centres.

Motsoaledi said one of the advantages of this test was that it was easier to get samples from the cervix.

“What people might not have known publicly is that sometimes the results of a pap smear do not produce anything,” he said.

“They discovered that in the laboratory some samples were not [good] enough because the woman was either menstruating or she had sex before the test, making the results unreliable.”

He said that while there had been challenges in relation to cancer treatment, in particular radiation in KwaZulu-Natal, two linear accelerator radiation machines are now functional in Addington Hospital.

“We will be providing additional support especially to KZN and Gauteng through a national tender to procure radiation oncology services from the private sector.”

Motsoaledi said that when successful bidders have been appointed, they should be able to start work by January 1 next year.

He said the department had also negotiated to decrease the price of the breast cancer treatment injection Trastuzumab from R10 689 to R6 831 in government hospitals.

Motsoaledi said that Globocan, a global body that estimates the number of cancers in different countries worldwide, predicted that in South Africa 107 467 people are expected to have cancer, 59 703 women and 47 464 men, this year alone.

He announced that the South African Medical Council with the assistance of the Beijing Genomics Institute is establishing a genomic research facility about genetics of cancer in people of African descent.

“This facility will increase our knowledge of the genetics of local cancers so that we can better diagnose and treat cancers,” he said.