Government’s lack of funding for cancer research could cost untold lives by denying past, present and future cancer patients the support needed to beat cancer.
According to the South African Health Review published in 2011, 84 180 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, with the figure rising to 109 956 by 2025.
Yet, reported minimal increases of 3.5% in government funding for the Medical Research Council (MRC), in conjunction with 6% inflation and escalating costs of medical research, has meant that the MRC has proposed the closure of its oncology unit. This unit plays a critical role in cancer research.
A final decision on the proposed closure will be taken in November.
The MRC is the principal medical research unit funded by the state and the closure of its oncology unit is unacceptable. On-going research is critical to providing a counter-punch in the battle against cancer. Government cannot in all conscience support the dissolution of this unit.
Early detection is key to the successful combatting of cancer. Studies have found that a woman diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer has an 88% chance of cure, while diagnosis at Stage IV dramatically decreases the survival rate, with just 15% of those diagnosed surviving more than five years. It is essential that patients are diagnosed earlier on and more accurately, and this requires investment in cancer research.
Today I showed my support for breast cancer awareness and service by attending a media awareness event at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. Promoting greater awareness is one way of ensuring that this issue is prioritised, but I will also be using every appropriate parliamentary mechanism available to push government to fulfil its Constitutional mandate of providing health care services to all. The maintenance and development of research support for diseases such as cancer is a key part of this mandate.