Puff’s death should ring alarm bells

2013-07-07 14:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

In life, Puff Johnson charmed R&B fans with hits like Over & Over.

After her death two weeks ago, local gynaecologists say Johnson’s battle with cervical cancer should serve as a reminder to women of all ages to be regularly screened for the disease.

Johnson (40) was diagnosed four years ago and moved briefly to South Africa soon afterwards – the diagnosis and her move were unrelated.

She died on June 24, back home in the US.

She is one of about 275 000 women who will die of cervical cancer around the world this year, 3 500 of them here in South Africa.

Tragically, cervical cancer is a preventable disease if it’s detected early. But according to media reports at the time, Johnson was already in stage 4, considered the final stage of the disease, when she was diagnosed.

Gynaecologist Dr Priya Moodley said a “simple pap smear test” was all that was needed to detect the disease.

Pathologists use this smear from the lining of the cervix to see if there are any abnormal changes to cells.

If this is the case, treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

But prevention is better than cure. Local gynaecologist Dr Thandi Mtsi says vaccinating young girls who are not sexually active against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, is ideal.

There are two HPV vaccines currently available in South Africa – but they’re costly, at between R595 and R896 per shot. To be fully protected, girls must have three injections.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced recently that the HPV vaccine will be rolled out free for nine-year-old girls from poorer schools from February next year.

The virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, body fluids and sexual intercourse. In most cases, HPV goes away by itself within two years and does not cause health problems. But if it persists, it’s a silent killer.

Moodley said women “can live with the infection for 10 to 15 years without knowing and by the time it is detected, it is too late”. By the time the cancer is in its fourth stage, it’s difficult to treat.

Moodley said survival rates in the fourth stage – which is when Johnson was diagnosed – are as low as 20%.

“This was why health professionals advocate for prevention,” she said.

Mtsi echoed her sentiments, saying “the precancer conditions and early stages can be cured”.

“During this period, the patient comes for observation. The patient needs to come for six monthly pap smears to check if there’s a progression of the disease,” she explained.

» See citypress.co.za/multimedia for a graphic explaining the stages of cervical cancer – and how to treat it

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.