Breast cancer has become a serious health concern for women in South Africa each year. It is the most common type of cancer amongst women in South Africa with a lifetime risk of 1:33 (National Cancer Registry 2009). It is a disease that has the potential to impact on many aspects of a woman’s life including her physical abilities, her family, her career, her social world as she knows it, and her leisure. A breast cancer diagnosis ravages the mind, body and spirit of a woman and brings serious doubts to her ability to remain the same woman she was before the diagnosis
Surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis may involve part or all of a breast removed (mastectomy). Having a mastectomy leads to a tier of decision making regarding whether to have surgical reconstruction, wear an external breast prosthesis, or not wear anything at all to replace the amputated breast. External breast prosthesis may be the best option a woman has, especially if she cannot afford to undergo reconstructive surgery.
However, not all patients can afford the cost of a permanent prosthesis. Although as much support as possible is given to the paying customer in terms of selection, affordability and even fitting a silicone prosthesis, Reach for Recovery believes that all women who have had breast cancer surgery should have access to appropriate breast prostheses, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. The reality is that many breast cancer patients in South Africa cannot even afford a bra, let alone a breast prosthesis. Reach for Recovery wants to help these women to feel confident again after the traumatic diagnoses and surgery. They believe that a breast prosthesis is an important step in her recovery, especially to those women from communities where a there is still a stigma attached to a cancer diagnoses. A more natural appearance with a breast prosthesis, together with the emotional support that she can continue to receive from Reach for Recovery and/or CANSA volunteers through support groups, will help her to return to her place of employment and continue to provide for her family.
The Ditto Project started in 2011. Since 2011 a total of 1852 silicone prostheses costing R909,972 were given to women who could not afford one. Many women donated a small amount (R75) as a token of their gratitude, but we also supported women who could not afford any donation at all. Apart from state patients, a growing number of women only have a Hospital Plan which does not cover breast prostheses. Pensioners are particularly hard hit. We have also seen a steady increase in the number of women needing silicone prostheses since 2011: from 475 in 2011 to more than 819 in 2015. There is without doubt a growing need for this service.
Unfortunately a silicone prosthesis is guaranteed to last for only 2 years; therefore women returning to Reach for Recovery to have their prostheses replaced.
You can support the Ditto Project at www.reach4recovery.org.za.