Things you can do to help the fight against cancer

As World Cancer Day on February 4 looms, cancer remains a major health challenge in South Africa and the rest of the world, affecting millions of people and their families.

Cancer can cause physical, emotional and financial hardship for patients and their families over a long period of time. 

According to the 2023 Statistics South Africa report on cancer released in 2023, cancer-related deaths decreased from 598,553 in 2008 to 454,014 in 2018. Despite this decrease, South Africa’s cancer rate is regarded as one of the highest on the continent.

Fortunately, there are many nonprofit organisations dedicated to fighting cancer, educating the public on prevention. The nonprofits also provide remedial support for those who are affected by cancer, despite their limited resources.

However, the fight against the scourge requires as many hands on deck as possible, including yours. These are some of the ways you can support NGOs that help battle cancer:

Donating money or goods

One of the most direct ways to help nonprofits is to donate money or goods that they need. You can choose a reputable organisation that aligns with your values and interests, such as research, prevention, education, treatment, advocacy, or support. One of the organisations that aims to cover these values in South Africa is Pink Drive and More Balls Than Most (MBTM), which provides mammograms, clinical breast examination, pap smear services, blood tests to detect prostate cancer, and testicular cancer education.

The organisation, like many others, doesn’t get funding from the government. Business development manager at Pink Drive and MBTM, Sharon Thomson says: “As an NGO, PinkDrive relies solely on donations, sponsorships, and funds gained from partnering with corporate South Africa and the public to bring our services to communities. Our primary beneficiaries are [low-income] and medically uninsured South Africans living in rural, township, and semi-urban areas.”

You can also donate items that nonprofits can use or sell, such as clothing, books, electronics, or furniture. 

Volunteer your time or skills. 

If you don’t have money or goods to donate, other valuable resources you can offer are your time and skills.

Dalit Shekel, CEO at Relate Bracelets, a not-for-profit social enterprise that raises funds for social upliftment initiatives, says: “You can offer to help with administrative tasks, fundraising events, outreach programmes, or other activities that they need assistance with. You can also share your professional skills and expertise. Volunteering can be a rewarding experience that allows you to make a difference and meet new people.”

According to Shekel, donating your time and skills will give you a deeper understanding of how profoundly the disease affects society. 

Align your personal lifestyle with the cause

Participate in cancer prevention and early detection initiatives, such as getting regular screenings, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and protecting yourself from excessive exposure to the sun. Besides the personal health benefits, this also helps to manage the cancer rate.

Early detection can prolong lives. Educate yourself and others about the signs and symptoms of cancer and the importance of seeking medical help early. “Early diagnosis of cancer focuses on detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible, so they have the best chance for successful treatment. When cancer care is delayed or inaccessible there is a lower chance of survival, greater problems associated with treatment and higher costs of care,” says Thomson.


Advocate for better cancer policies and practices at local, provincial and national levels. You can sign petitions, write letters, attend meetings or join campaigns to improve access to quality cancer care and support for all South Africans. You can also raise awareness about the impact of environmental factors, such as climate change and pollution, cancer risk, and health outcomes.

Thomson says that the fight against cancer in South Africa is further made complex by the social context. “It’s compounded by poverty and a lack of basic knowledge of personal health. Despite this, we believe that basic health screening, awareness and education can be achieved with creativity and mobility. Reach, presence, and support from the public are tremendously valued,” she adds.

Spread the word and raise awareness. 

Another way to support non-profits is to spread the word and raise awareness about their cause and their work. You don’t have to be a communications expert, you can do it on your mobile phone and from the comfort of your own home, using your social media platforms, blogs, podcasts, or newsletters to share information and stories about the organisation you support. 

You can also encourage your friends, family, co-workers, or community members to get involved and donate or volunteer their time and skills. By raising awareness, you can help increase the impact and reach of the nonprofits.

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