What is Cancer Advocacy?

Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Health Advocacy supports and promotes patients’ health care rights, and enhances community health and policy initiatives that focus on the availability, safety and quality of care. The Cancer Alliance has adopted a human- rights based approach to cancer care that acknowledges that access to services is a matter of social justice, and gives voice to the voiceless.

To be the voice for those who have either been robbed completely of theirs or who aren’t equipped with the resources to raise them. To give voice to problems and issues that are ignored, unknown or deliberately hidden from public hearing. To equip and empower the voiceless to raise their voices in a way they will be heard. To enable the voices being raised to be heard, then listened to – and acted upon. “Conceptually, advocacy fits into a range of activities that include organizing, lobbying, and campaigning. Organizing is a broad-based activity designed to ensure that the views represented in advocacy come from those who are actually affected by the issue. Lobbying derives from the Latin word ‘loggia’, a room where one would meet directly with decision-makers to engage in (often private) quality discussions and debate. Compared to organizing, lobbying takes a more targeted approach and reaches out to fewer people. On the other end of the spectrum, the Latin origin for campaigning is ‘campus’, the wider battlefield. An advocacy campaign publicly promotes an agenda, involving platforms where a wide audience can hear the advocate’s message.”

The SA National Cancer Policies

The National Department of Health (NDOH) has put much effort into producing a series of national policy and framework documents which have direct relevance to cancer patients in South Africa. These include the following:

  • The National Cancer Strategic Framework for South Africa – 2017-2022
  • The National Policy Framework and Strategy on Palliative Care – 2017 – 2022
  • The Breast Cancer Control Policy 2017
  • The Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy
  • Policies for Childhood Cancer and Prostate Cancer are on the horizon for 2018-2019
  • Further policies are envisaged for the future, to complement the National Cancer Strategic Framework for South Africa.

In the Advocacy Toolkit: Part 2 the Cancer Alliance unpacks the most important content of each policy, provides some indications of additional work and support to ensure the success of the policy, and provides suggested social media messages which can be used to further raise awareness of the policy. Patient stories are also provided to demonstrate how each policy can assist to improve cancer services to patients.

Toolkit material for each national policy / framework will be released on a monthly basis during 2018-19.

National Cancer Strategic Framework
for South Africa 2017-2022

The National Cancer Strategic Framework 2017 – 2022 reflects the country’s commitment to reduce the burden of cancer among all our people. This commitment is made amidst many competing demands from both health and developmental contexts, including our quadruple burden of disease and the high impact of social determinants of health. Many people continue to experience inequities in accessing health services and this Strategy is the platform to improve access to all components of cancer prevention and control, on an equitable basis. The increasing burden of cancer both internationally and in South Africa is worrying. I am especially concerned about the manner in which the disease impacts on our lives, especially on those who are most vulnerable. I am aware that increasing cancer incidence and mortality is a challenge to all; patients and families who are directly affected by the disease – especially those who have limited access to care; health professionals who are faced daily with the challenges of diagnosing and treating patients, and government officials who must plan and be accountable for effective and cost- efficient service delivery.


Palliative care brings dignity, reduces pain and suffering, and enables children and adults diagnosed with a lifethreatening disease or condition to live a quality life for as long as possible. With the large disease burden we have in South Africa, we cannot overlook the importance of integrating palliative care as an essential component in the continuum of health service delivery. I am confident that the implementation of this National Policy Framework and Strategy on Palliative Care 2017-2022 will not only increase life expectancy but will enhance the quality of the lives of children and adults who require palliative care services.


Breast cancer, along with cervical cancer, has been identified as a national priority in South Africa. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer and a leading cause of death among South African women. The increasing incidence of breast cancer is a major health concern with 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older at-risk of contracting the disease. Per the National Cancer Registry in 2012, 8 203 new cases of breast were observed. Given the recent advances in medicine and technology, however, we have a tremendous opportunity to attack breast cancer energetically and effectively with a revised national programme.


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