Phakamisa

Partnership Objectives

  1. Helping improve breast health awareness and breast cancer survival rates.
  2. Boost capacity in diagnosis and treatment, providing medicines and raising disease awareness in communities across South Africa.

Breast cancer is the greatest cause of cancer death among women in South Africa. Breast cancer is the greatest cause of cancer death among women in South Africa. Copyright

What are the health needs and challenges?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer and greatest cause of cancer death among women in South Africa (SA). Poor education and lack of awareness of breast health issues, cultural barriers and no access to healthcare facilities have hindered efforts by the government to combat the disease among low-income communities.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

AstraZeneca South Africa’s Phakamisa program is taking significant steps in helping improve breast health awareness and breast cancer survival rates. Derived from the Zulu word meaning to “uplift” or “elevate”, Phakamisa is boosting capacity in diagnosis and treatment, providing medicines and raising disease awareness in communities across South Africa.

As leaders in breast cancer treatment, AstraZeneca established the program to break down barriers preventing detection, diagnosis and treatment. Central to this effort is addressing the major differences in the treatment of breast cancer across segments of the South African population. For example, rural black women are much less likely than white women to seek early help due to reasons such as poverty, lack of access to medical centers with appropriate services, cultural barriers such as the stigmatisation of breast cancer, suspicion of modern medicine and preferences to be treated by traditional healers

Consequently, a large number of women with breast cancer are presenting at health clinics with late-stage symptoms and with accordingly poor prognosis.

To overcome these barriers, Phakamisa conducted a needs assessment, focusing on stakeholder engagement and the patient journey. The findings paved the way for implementing a specialised six-point plan, tailored to the needs of low-income patients:

  • Improved education and awareness in patients
  • Overcoming cultural barriers that prevent patients seeking early help
  • Improved access to oncology services and medicines  
  • National breast cancer screening/education programs
  • Increasing capacity and improving efficiency of the referral process
  • Enhanced skills and training of staff to treat patients with breast cancer in the public sector

To date, Phakamisa has reached over 600,000 women by Navigators across the country. Over 40,000 public meetings have been held, some 5,000 women have raised concerns about their own breast health and over 2,500 malignant lumps correctly referred for early diagnosis and treatment. The primary objective of the Navigators remains to support diagnosed breast cancer patients in the public system through a complex and daunting journey. Courses have been provided to 250 healthcare professionals and 400 volunteers have been trained. 

Partnership information

Company(ies) AstraZeneca

Partner(s) Foundation for Professional Development, South Africa Breast Health Foundation, South African Cancer Association

Type of Partner(s) NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Non-Communicable Diseases, Women and Children's Health

Disease(s) Breast Cancer, Cancer, Women's Health

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - Development of Physical Infrastructure, Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Awareness & Outreach

Targeted Population(s) Health professionals, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Patients in needs of treatment, People with low income, Women

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) South Africa

Start Date 2010

More information Phakamisa

Completed date 2013