Cancer is emerging as one of the major public health problems in South Africa, said President Jacob Zuma.
"Breast cancer in particular affects scores of women in our country, and requires our utmost attention," said Zuma at the launch of the "Warriors Walk for Cancer" initiative by his wife Tobeka Madiba Zuma's foundation.
"Let us remember that cancer is not about statistics, it is about people, families, and communities. It is about our loved ones."
He said one of the important interventions is ensuring that women have equitable access to quality healthcare. "Crucial is ensuring that women are diagnosed early enough to save their lives."
Zuma also expressed concern about the fear and stigma associated with cancer.
"Women suffer from being discriminated against by their communities, ostracised by their partners or husbands and painful deaths from cancer. Cultural barriers and taboo about surgery especially of the breast."
The president said the rates of breast and cervical cancer are also rapidly increasing due to the impact of risk factors associated with changing lifestyles such as obesity, smoking and alcohol.
"Our people must also take responsibility for their health too," he said.
"In other words, we cannot act irresponsibly and smoke, drink alcohol, not exercise and put on excess weight. If we do so, we place our lives at risk for the early onset of these non-communicable diseases so largely preventable."
He said South Africans need to meet government half way in its attempt to strengthen preventive measures. "As the old saying goes 'prevention is better than cure'."
Zuma also praised civil society initiatives in raising awareness and providing support to women.
"We therefore need a close working relationship with civil society, business, government, traditional healers and faith based organisations."
Image: Cancer cells from Shutterstock