Groote Schuur Hospital celebrates World Cancer Day
The Western Cape Government (WCGH) is committed to saving lives of preventable deaths by raising awareness and education about the global impact of cancer. World Cancer Day commemorated today (4 February) is again a time for the Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) to reflect on recent gains made in its Oncology Unit in the prevention, detection, treatment and care of patients.
World Cancer Day, led by the Union for International Cancer Control, is a global initiative that aims to reduce the global cancer burden. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 17 people die every minute from cancer.
Each year, the GSH Oncology Unit sees in excess of 3 000 new patients. Each year, this number increases by between 5 and 10%. Up to 60% of these patients will require radiotherapy as part of their treatment plan. Many will be cured, and their quality of life and “new normal” may be directly dependent on the quality of their treatment.
“Over the past 15 years, radiotherapy techniques have become increasingly complex. Just as surgery and systemic treatment have become more targeted, so has radiotherapy. New imaging techniques allow visualisation of the target, but hitting the target is no longer enough. Protecting the surrounding organs at risk is not only desirable but it is now possible,” says Prof Jeannette Parkes, Head of the Unit.
A Halcyon machine has been developed at GSH that simultaneously allows cancer treatment to the highest standards, and enables greater safety, with a lower level of input required from personnel. It allows complex planning, the ability to move the patient into exactly the right position automatically at every fraction, and visualisation of all the structures, as well as complicated quality assurance with far less manual input, and it is much quicker than standard machines.
“At Groote Schuur Hospital, we have been extremely fortunate to have had substantial investment over the past 15 years, both in infrastructure and equipment. We have the latest upgraded patient management system, allowing automated transfer of information along the chain of radiotherapy. We have the latest sophisticated brachytherapy system (the first installation of Bravos in Africa) which is in operation in our brachytherapy theatre, and the Halcyon is the second machine we have installed in the last five years. We now have four modern linear accelerators where we had one modern and one dinosaur machine 10 years ago,” adds Prof Parkes.
The hospital has introduced palliative care training and training of radiotherapy professionals from all over Africa as a collaboration with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the global access to cancer care foundation. It also has sequentially worked towards additional access to modern cancer drugs through the province, as well as through research projects.
This progress illustrates that treating cancer requires teams of professionals from a multitude of disciplines outside of clinical oncology. The WCGH thank all of them for their continued support. They allow these facilities to provide the kind of treatment for our patients that makes their difficult journey tolerable.