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Breast Health Foundation and Discovery Fund brings essential women’s healthcare services to members of the community in Mpumalanga

03 April 2024 Discovery

The Breast Health Foundation (BHF), supported by the Discovery Fund, successfully renovated and inaugurated the Pfukani Women’s Clinic at Tintswalo Hospital in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, with the ambition to bring critical healthcare services closer to members of the community.

In April 2002, the Breast Health Foundation was established as a Not-for-Profit Organisation (NPO) with the mission to educate the public on breast health, cancer and to empower women. In 2023, the foundation made a significant impact on addressing women’s health, including educating 52,300 individuals on Breast Health and Breast Cancer, navigating over 4,200 patients with Breast Health concerns through relevant Breast Clinics, and providing crucial support to over 450 diagnosed Breast Cancer patients in 2023.

Pfukani Women’s Clinic: Bringing Quality Medical Care Closer
The Pfukani Women’s Clinic, meaning Rise in Tsonga, offers services including breast and cervical cancer screening, all aspects of reproductive health, and large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) procedures for confirmed abnormal pap smears.

On average, the clinic sees 20 patients per day and about 100 per week since it’s opening in June 2023. The clinic operates from 8 am to 4 pm, ensuring convenience for those who work around the community.

The Pfukani Women’s Clinic achieved a milestone by conducting 100 LLETZ procedures in 2023, contributing significantly to the early intervention and management of cervical cancer cases. LLETZ stands for Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone, a medical procedure used in gynaecology to diagnose and treat abnormal cells on the cervix, particularly those related to cervical dysplasia or precancerous change.

Head of Sustainability at Discovery, Ruth Lewin, commends the work done by the BHF: “The lack of medical services for women in Limpopo and surrounding areas is what led to the creation of this clinic. Many women have to travel long distances to seek healthcare services, with transportation being costly. The Pfukani Women’s Clinic is assisting the community in bridging that healthcare gap, while also educating women about self-checks and the importance of going for regular screenings. Pfukani’s significance cannot be overstated.”

“One in 28 South African women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and the Breast Health Foundation is addressing this challenge through collaborative efforts with the Discovery Fund. This partnership, initiated in 2017, aims to enhance training and advocacy in both the public and private sectors, making a significant impact in the detection, diagnosis, and referral of breast cancer patients,” says Louise Turner, Chief Operating Officer of Breast Health Foundation.

Turner is proud of the work BHF has done for the community and the Pfukani Women’s Clinic all female-led staff, “We had an older patient come in because she was worried about the way her breasts looked. Professor Carol Benn, Founder of Breast Health Foundation and renowned breast cancer surgeon, examined her and determined that it was definitely breast cancer, but because of the type of breast cancer, all she needed was to go onto a tablet. That was August last year, when we were back in October, the lovely maGogo was dancing around because the pain was gone. She was so happy. We were in tears; I cannot describe that feeling to you.”

Educating and Training Underserved Communities
Following the clinic's launch, a week-long program of Breast Health and Cervical Training was conducted for Tintswalo Hospital’s staff, including 28 nurses and 16 doctors, facilitated by The Breast Health Foundation. This training aimed to impart knowledge and skills necessary for self-breast examinations and early detection.

In August, BHF conducted three days’ worth of training on breast health for the Pfukani Women’s Clinic. Led by Professor Benn of the Breast Care Centre of Excellence, the only internationally accredited breast unit in Africa, 75% of the training focused on breast health, and 25% on cervical health.

Turner emphasised the importance of community understanding, stating, “We trained all the employees in the hospital from the cleaners, the kitchen staff, right through to the nurses and administrative staff and went through breast health signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Our intention for training everyone was to ensure effective communication with the staff and the community about our work and its life-saving potential. If our entire team understands and knows what we’re doing, then they can explain it to the community and the more lives we can save.”

Members of the community can come in for screenings for cervical cancer, pap smears, and family planning. “It's becoming a nicely rounded, little women’s clinic where we can opportunistically screen for breast and cervical at the same time. From a cervical point of view, for example, previously a patient who came in for a Pap smear and was found to have abnormal cells, what would normally happen is that the woman would then get referred to a regional hospital, which could take three to six months. Now we’re able to create diagnostic opportunities for cervical and breast cancer through Pfukani,” explains Turner.

The Breast Health Foundation and the Discovery Fund issue a collective call to action
Beyond the commemoration of their achievements, we encourage individuals to prioritise their health by undergoing cancer screenings and mammograms, while practising regular self-checks. Early detection remains a powerful tool in the fight against cancer, offering better treatment outcomes and improved chances of survival.

The inauguration of the Pfukani Women’s Clinic stands as a testament to what collaborative efforts can achieve in providing accessible healthcare and empowering communities to rise against the challenges posed by cancer.

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