Surviving breast cancer: how community health worker’s insistence saved a woman’
On Cancer Survivor’s Day on Sunday, 2 June 2019, Sarah Cupido from the small rural town of Mamre celebrated her own breast cancer victory.
Sarah Cupido (76) discovered she had breast cancer after a home visit was conducted by Jean Abels, a trained Community Healthcare Worker (CHW) from TB/HIV Care in Mamre as part of the Western Cape Government Health Community-Orientated Primary Care (COPC) pilot project.
This approach means promoting health and more preventative interventions at household and community level, as well as in the facility. Mamre CDC was one of the COPC pilot sites and implemented community-oriented care successfully in its community. Household assessments and area mapping were conducted for 850 houses by the team, and each trained community healthcare worker (CHW) were given an allocated amount of homes to visit. Patients who are not accessing their healthcare centre and requires urgent healthcare intervention, such as Sarah Cupido, are identified and referred to Mamre CDC for treatment.
“I never knew I had a problem with my breast, but Jean kept asking me questions about my health and if I had a pap smear done because of my age. I never really understood the importance of a check-up and pap smear, but my neighbour Elizabeth Johannes provided support. I never had a pap smear and Jean sent me to the Mamre clinic for a check-up,” said Sarah.
The Community Health Worker’s insistence that she goes for an examination at her local clinic, saved Sarah’s life.
The Clinical Nurse Practitioner, Sr. Iris de Villiers from the Mamre Community Day Centre (CDC), provided a full health screening and breast examination and discovered lumps in Sarah’s breast. She was immediately referred to Groote Schuur Hospital’s Breast Clinic for further tests.
“I was nervous and never had transport to Groote Schuur hospital, but the staff at Mamre arranged for HealthNet to transport me to the hospital and bring me back home again. Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, HealthNet transports me to the hospital for every visit,” said Sarah.
Sarah is in remission, taking her medication and attending a breast cancer support group in Mamre twice a month, which was also arranged by Jean, the CHW, as part of the COPC project. Sarah also goes for regular screenings at Groote Schuur to make sure she is still in remission.
The Western Cape Government Health Community-Orientated Primary Care (COPC) pilot project was introduced and implemented in identified areas in the Metro and Rural in 2017. The aim of the project is to change the focus of health services from only reacting when people become ill enough to seek medical care, to proactively looking at a whole community and addressing the most important challenges together with community members, the Department, community healthcare workers, and other role players.
Sarah Cupido is one of the Department’s many success stories and proof that the COPC project’s home visits, early detection and intervention can prevent further health complications and eventually create a healthier community.
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