Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
4 minute read
29 Jan 2022
2:51 pm

Cancer app to facilitate early breast and cervical cancer detection

Renate Engelbrecht

Covid-19 has had an impact on many things, including cancer screening programmes, resulting in delayed diagnosis and increased numbers of avoidable cancer deaths. Now, a free app – which will assist women in self-screening – is due to be launched on World Cancer Day.

The cancer app will assist with early detection. Image: iStock

A locally developed app by Campaigning for Cancer, and sponsored by Pfizer South Africa, is due to form part of the process in fast-tracking the adoption of telehealth globally. The MyCancerGuide app has been developed to help women detect cancer sooner, ultimately decreasing the number of cancer-related deaths due to delayed diagnosis.

Lauren Pretorius, CEO at Campaigning for Cancer, said that as we navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution communities should be able to access the necessary tools to help them manage their health easily and affordably.

“We chose a web-based app solution, as 20 to 22 million people in South Africa use a smartphone, about one-third of the country’s population,” said Pretorius.

Cancer app for early detection
Cancer app for early detection of breast cancer. Image: iStock

With World Cancer Day taking place on 4 February, Campaigning for Cancer collaborated with various medical NGOs to form a partnership to commemorate South Africa’s contribution to the day’s activities. The app will also officially be launched on World Cancer Day, a day which is one initiative under which the whole world can unite and fight the global cancer epidemic.

World Cancer Day’s aim is to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness, educating people about cancer and pressing governments and individuals across the world to act against it.

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The MyCancerGuide app’s initial focus on breast and cervical cancer is mainly because these are two of the top five cancers that affect women in South Africa. According to the most recent National Cancer Registry, 9,624 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in South Africa in 2017, accounting for 23.11% of all cancers in women in the country.

Local women have a 1 in 25 lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The registry also reveals that cervical cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in all South African women, with 6,600 women diagnosed in 2017 – a lifetime risk of 1 in 40.

Pretorius said that in addition to breast and cervical cancer, they will also be adding self-examination options for a range of cancer types in the coming months.

Campaigning for Cancer aims to ensure that South Africans are informed and educated when it comes to cancer and their rights as patients.

“Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right,” said Pretorius. “However, with these rights comes a responsibility to look after our health, because being diagnosed early may save your life. We hope the MyCancerGuide app will empower women with a guide to completing their monthly breast self-examination and cervical self-observation step by step.”

Cervical cancer awareness
Cervical cancer awareness. Image: iStock

Early detection of breast and cervical cancer can yield five-year survival rates of 99% and 92% respectively. Pretorius said to assist users and improve early detection, the app provides push notifications to remind them to conduct monthly breast self-examinations and assess their risks or symptoms of breast and/or cervical cancer, with both spoken and written instructions in, which will eventually be available in seven South African languages.

A questionnaire will follow the self-examination, to assess the outcomes and depending on the results, the app will share information to educate the user on how to change and improve their health behaviour, or it will refer them to the relevant health service providers.

Pfizer Category Lead for Oncology, Zogera Kara, said that the company is proud to sponsor the app. “Campaigning for Cancer aligns with our values of access and affordability, and over the past 13 years, its impact has expanded to assist people affected by cancer to perceive fair, appropriate, timeous, respectful and quality treatment and care. Along with this, the app will also be made available to all those conducting community health promotion campaigns for breast cancer and cervical cancer.”

South Africans can sign up to the MyCancerGuide app by visiting www.mcgscreening.co.za.