What we do

Cancercare provides an integrated cancer care service through its practices, each with access to a team of dedicated oncologists committed to offering the best advice, treatment and service to patients. Our oncologists are supported by a highly skilled team of radiation therapists, radiation laboratory technicians, medical physicists, medical officers, oncology social workers and oncology nursing sisters.

 

While advances in medical technology have changed the way we treat our patients medically, there are some things that never change: the way we treat our patients as human beings – with compassion, accountability, respect and ethics. These are our values to which we are committed.

 

Our services include specialist consultations, external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy and chemotherapy. We are also proud to offer value-added services such as individual or group psychosocial care to our patients and their families, as well as comprehensive information on all aspects of cancer care.

1. Dedicated team of specialists

Our dedicated team of specialists ensures that our patients are treated as individuals, each with his or her own unique needs. Being diagnosed with cancer can be a frightening situation for many and our employees are therefore trained in the areas of empathy and compassion to ensure patients are not alone on this journey.

 

As a leader and forerunner in the field of cancer management in South Africa, Cancercare has been responsible for many “firsts” in the field of radiotherapy in South Africa. These include various brachytherapy techniques, implementing Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) in clinical practice, and stereotactic body therapy with respiratory gating. We also have a well-established clinical trials arm in George, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, allowing us to offer our patients access to the latest clinical trials with their potential benefits, often at greatly reduced costs.

 

2. Improving access to oncology services

Numerous national initiatives have developed with the input of Cancercare and its management. Cancercare was intimately involved in the establishment of the SA Oncology Consortium and also involved with national co-operatives in providing industry comments on the Health Charter, National Cancer Plan, Prescribed Minimum Benefits and on-going fee negotiations. We have also been instrumental in the establishment of a national network to improve access to oncology services to a larger part of the population.

 

3. Holistic philosophy

Our philosophy towards cancer treatment is holistic and we continually strive to achieve our core purpose of excellence in the provision of comprehensive cancer care. Patients can be assured of treatment in line with the best available anywhere in the world at any Cancercare centre in the Eastern and Western Cape of South Africa.

 

We are proud of what we have achieved in the past 26 years and look forward to facilitating the evolution of cancer care in South Africa.

We are also proud to offer value-added services such as individual or group psycho-social care to our patients and their families, as well as comprehensive information on all aspects of cancer care

Your journey through cancer

Cancer is widely regarded as one of the most dreaded diseases of our time. It impacts on all levels of an individual’s functioning, and Cancercare’s treatment and care are therefore based on a holistic care model. Our medical specialists, radiation therapists, technicians, counsellors, oncology nursing sisters and other premedical staff all work together to give patients the best treatment and rehabilitation on his or her journey through cancer.

 

Read more about our holistic approach and how Cancercare will accompany you through this journey by downloading our booklet here.

An ancient Chinese proverb reads…

The longest journey begins with a single step.

Treatment

The three most common treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

 

These may be applied on their own or in combination with one other. A multidisciplinary team works together to determine, prescribe and deliver the treatment you need. This team consists of a surgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist – as well as medical physicists, radiation therapists, social workers and nursing sisters. Your diagnoses [the type and stage of cancer], possible side effects, your preferences and overall health will determine your treatment options.

 

Feel free to ask us any questions – at any stage of your journey. Our staff is specially trained to assist you in any way possible, and this includes referring you to counsellors, dieticians and social workers.

Brachytherapy places the radiation source as close as possible to the cancer cells so treatment is given over a short distance. Instead of using a large radiation machine, the radioactive material – sealed in a thin wire, catheter or tube (implant) – is placed directly into the affected tissue. This method of treatment concentrates the radiation on the cancer cells and lessens radiation damage to some of the normal tissues (organs at risk) near the cancer.

 

In remote brachytherapy, a computer sends the radioactive source through a tube to a catheter that has been placed at the required site by the patient’s doctor. The brachytherapy team watches the patient on closed-circuit television and directs the procedure. The radioactivity remains at the treatment site for only a few minutes. In some cases, several remote treatments may be required and the catheter may stay in place between treatments.

 

Because no radioactive material is left in the body, the patient can return home after the treatment. For prostate cancer, the radioactive seeds implanted into the prostate stay in permanently and the patient goes home the following day because of the properties of these radioactive seeds (very low in activity and energy). Remote brachytherapy has been used to treat cancers of the cervix, breast, lung, pancreas, prostate and oesophagus.

 

The side effects of remote brachytherapy depend on the area being treated. You are not likely to have severe pain or feel ill during or after this procedure.

 

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with chemical drugs with the aim to destroy cancer cells. Although such treatment potentially also affects normal cells, these cells have the ability to repair themselves, whilst damage to cancer cells is usually of a more permanent nature.

Combination chemotherapy forms the basis of most chemotherapy treatment. The goal is to use different drugs that complement each other in their destructive effects on cancer cells whilst reducing side effects and toxic effects on normal cells. This can be achieved because of their different mechanisms of action and side effect profiles.

 

Goals of chemotherapy

  • to destroy cancer cells
  • to shrink a tumour before other treatments
  • to destroy cancer cells after other treatments

 

Chemotherapy is given as

  • definitive therapy – when the best chance of cure is with chemotherapy
  • neo–adjuvant therapy – prior to surgery or radiation to reduce tumour burden prior to definitive therapy with either modality
  • combination therapy with radiotherapy – either sequentially or concurrently, to enhance the effects of radiation (chemo radiation)
  • secondary therapy – to try cure metastatic disease
  • palliative therapy – to improve specific symptoms and enhance quality of life

 

Drugs are given in different ways. The four most common methods are

  • intravenous (IV)
  • by mouth
  • intramuscular
  • intrathecal

 

The chosen method of administration is based on diagnosis and the drug’s characteristics.

Some medications are taken by mouth in the form of a pill, capsule or liquid.

The term intramuscular means that the drug is injected into the muscle, usually in the arm, thigh or buttock. Some drugs may be injected into the tissue under the skin rather than into the muscle. This is referred to as a subcutaneous injection.

 

Giving medicine intravenously or directly into a vein is a very common method. Medication flows from a plastic bag, through tubing, into the bloodstream. Sometimes a syringe is used to push the drugs through the tubing.

 

Certain types of leukaemia and lymphoma tend to spread to the nervous system. To prevent or to treat this, a physician may perform a spinal tap and inject chemotherapy into the spinal fluid to destroy cancer cells. This is known as intrathecal delivery.

 

Side effects

The most common side effects of drugs involve the cells that comprise the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, the skin and scalp (hair follicles), and the marrow. Each of these parts of the body has a common characteristic: as part of their normal functions, they all have rapid cell turnover (growth of new cells to replace old cells).

 

Clinical trials / Research

Cancercare is extensively involved in clinical research. The research is conducted in collaboration with international pharmaceutical companies and recognised cancer research groups from both Europe and the United States of America.

 

Goals of clinical research

All advances in chemotherapy in the past decade are a direct result of clinical research. We are proud to offer our patients the opportunity to participate in these advances and have access to new and exciting drugs undergoing development.

 

Download the Cancercare booklet on Chemotherapy here

Radiation therapy (also known as radiation or x-ray therapy) is the treatment of cancer through the use of high-energy x-ray beams. These rays can penetrate tissue and in doing so they deposit their energy into the cells in the treatment area, causing cell damage and cell death in the cancer growth.

 

Normal cells are also influenced by radiation. In contrast to cancer cells, most of them recover from the effects of radiation. Normal tissue, however, still needs to be protected from radiation as far as possible; the total amount of radiation is thus limited to the dose that normal tissue can tolerate. The radiation treatment is also given over a varying period of time. Every patient’s treatment is planned individually with the use of computer technology. Normal tissue is protected from radiation beams, where possible, by the use of alloy shielding blocks or special collimation systems.

 

Download the Cancercare booklet on radiation therapy here

Counselling & Support

Cancercare recognises that when cancer is diagnosed the whole family is touched by the experience. Due to the domino effect that a cancer diagnosis may have on all aspects of the lives of patients and their loved ones, a professional counselling service is included in your treatment fees. At Cancercare we have a holistic approach to treating our patients.

 

We acknowledge and include the importance of body, mind and soul. The counsellors of CancerCare are Oncology Social Workers by profession and are all experienced in assisting and guiding patients and families through a cancer journey. We suggest that you make use of the service as it provides a neutral space where you can ask questions, share concerns and deal with unexpected emotions.

 

Support can be offered in the following ways

  • psycho social assessment and drafting a care plan
  • emotional support along the treatment journey for patients and their family members
  • linking with community resources
  • special counselling session for our patients’ children and grandchildren to assist and prepare them in talking about their parents’ or grandparents’ cancer
  • basic information on your treatment and side effects of treatment
  • stress management and relaxation therapy session
  • discharge planning (This services is a paid service for hospitalised patients and will be billed to your medical aid as in-hospital expenses.) Please note that should your medical aid not cover this cost, it will be free of charge.)
  • crisis management
  • emotional support and guidance
  • end of treatment counselling, if required
  • survivorship support counselling
  • end of life counselling
  • bereavement
  • support groups (more details of dates and venues available on the website)
The longest journey begins with a single step, or so an ancient Chinese proverb tells us. You have many steps in store as you make your way through the coming months.

Take control…

The impact of cancer on the family

Individuals who are diagnosed with cancer are not the only ones being affected by this illness. It also affects their families and loved ones. Therefore, it is important to talk about changes in feelings, roles, needs and expectations during this period.

 

Remember that the issues of importance will differ for all families depending on the life stage of the family and the children. Families with young children will have other issues and needs than a family with adolescents or a retired couple. The oncology social workers in Cancercare assist families in dealing with the challenges that cancer poses to them.

Taking control over your treatment

Patients are encouraged to become active members of their treatment team. It is important that you engage from the start with your oncologist and be part of making treatment decisions. Building hardiness and developing your own unique action plan is an important aspect of learning to cope with a serious illness like cancer.

 

“People with cancer who participate in their fight for cancer will improve the quality of their life and may enhance the possibility of their recovery,” says Dr Harold Benjamin, founder of The Wellness Community in the USA.

 

At Cancercare patients and their families are assisted in developing and individual action plans that will facilitate their healing journey.

Some valuable reading material…

Psychosocial support services

Discharge Planning

Patient information and News

Support Groups

Our Partners