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Celebrating 85 Years of Working Towards a World Without Cancer

Afrikaanse Persvrystelling

18 July 2016 – No one could have predicted the widespread impact it would have when the then National Cancer Association was established in 1931. Today, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) plays a leading role in cancer research and cancer control policy development, as well as providing care, support and education to South Africans affected by the dreaded disease.

85th Banner

By the time the National Cancer Association changed its name to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) in the 1990s, the non-profit organisation was firmly established as the country’s leading player in cancer research, education and support. In addition, CANSA was influencing policy development. It made a significant contribution to the anti-tobacco legislation of 1999 to ban tobacco product advertising and sponsorship activities.

Each decade, since its humble beginnings in the 1930s, CANSA has steadily developed a comprehensive service to the public, making a positive difference to thousands of South Africans affected by cancer.

“I believe our founders would be proud of what we have achieved and continue to strive for,” says Elize Joubert, Chief Executive Officer. “We have not only built on their legacy, we have also expanded their vision to provide care, education and research.”

View video messages to CANSA, celebrating our 85th Anniversary…


In the past few years alone, CANSA has been recognised nationally for its significant contribution to South Africa’s fight against cancer. In 2015 and 2014 CANSA came first in the NGO sector of PMR’s Diamond Arrow Overall National Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes and Initiatives. In 2013 CANSA received a Gold Award for Generosity and Excellence at the Stellenbosch University Vice-chancellor’s Awards.

The CANSA brand was rated the ‘most trusted’ by Reader’s Digest in its Charities category in 2014 and the most highly commended in 2015. It was also voted the ‘most coolest’ brand by youngsters in the 2016 Sunday Times Generation Next Survey.

In November 2015, CANSA’s CEO was announced as the African Continental Winner for Welfare and Civil Society Organisations at the 2015 Africa’s Most Influential Women (MIW) in Business and Government Awards. This followed her winning two awards in July: ‘Country Winner from South Africa’ and ‘SADC South Regional’ for the category ‘Welfare and Civil Society Organisations.’

In addition, CANSA’s integrated report has been recognised several times by the Chartered Secretaries Southern Africa’s Annual Report Awards in the NGO Category, named the 2011 winner in Best Sustainability Reporting; and receiving merit awards in 2012 and 2013.

Awards post

CANSA Community

CANSA relies heavily on corporate donors, cash donations and volunteerism to fund its health, care and support programmes, advocacy initiative and research initiatives.

Joubert believes that one of CANSA’s most extraordinary achievements in its 85 years of operation is establishing a community of people, affected by the dread disease in one way or another, who work together to raise funds and get work done.

“These include cancer Survivors, caregivers, medical and research professionals, sponsors and the general public who never cease to surprise us with their generosity and participation in our national and regional events,” says Joubert.

Some of the main events include the CANSA Shavathon, CANSA Relay For Life, Cuppa For CANSA and various sporting events that are supported by extensive marketing and promotion, all aimed at creating awareness and influencing behaviour. “We also need to recognise the work that goes into the myriad community events that take place each month throughout the country,” says Joubert.

Advocacy and Participation

CANSA is currently advocating the amendment of the patent law that will result in more affordable medication for cancer patients. It has also presented the Deputy Minister of Health with a document of support with more than 16 000 signatures to ban the use of sunbeds by children under the age of 18.

In the past, CANSA has successfully lobbied for the National Department of Affordable Medicines to provide substantial and quality sunscreen to people with albinism; as well as for cancer to be declared a registrable disease as part of the National Health Act.

CANSA also participates and drives national cancer advocacy initiatives and services as a member of the Cancer Alliance and founder of the South African Non-communicable Diseases Alliance.

CANSA’s History in Brief – Working Towards a World Without Cancer:


  • The Founders set out to establish a cancer register, cancer centres and clinics throughout the country, where optimal treatment and diagnostic methods could be investigated.


  • Progress was slow during the Great Depression and World War 2, but picked up again in the 1950s when the Association introduced educational programmes aimed at the importance of the early detection of cancer and healthy living. 


  • Clinical facilities for the early detection of uterine cancer were established and a Durban-based laboratory performed about 70 000 Pap smears annually.
  • Dr George Oettlé was the first cancer researcher to receive a grant from CANSA in 1958, in order initiate a cancer research programme in South Africa.


  • The first interim home (now known as CANSA Care Homes) was pioneered in Pretoria, followed by similar homes in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.


  • An innovative educational and fundraising initiative called ‘Toktokkie’ (also known as ‘Tap-Tap’) was launched nationwide.
  • Research grants continued to be sponsored at major universities and research institutions. Research was of international calibre, enabling South African cancer therapists to provide continuously improving levels of therapy to patients.
  • Community services were expanded and a total care programme was developed to assist cancer patients and their families from diagnosis to the terminal and bereavement phases, where necessary. Doctors, nurses, social workers, ministers of religion and volunteers were involved in these initiatives.
  • Volunteers formed part of the ‘I Can Cope’ programme designed to help cancer patients and their families cope with a cancer diagnosis. Other support groups such as Reach for Recovery for breast cancer patients and survivors were established.


  • As a member of the organisation known as the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the National Cancer Association hosted the UICC’s Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, as well as an international conference on oesophageal cancer in Cape Town.
  • Care facilities opened in Soweto; Langa, Western Cape; and Mangaung in the Free State, to provide a variety of community services.
  • The Hospicare Programme also provided numerous services ranging from home nursing to pain control.
  • The Karl Bremer hospitium was opened followed by the Theunis Fichardt hospitium.


  • The National Cancer Association changed its name to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and a new corporate identity was developed.
  • CANSA’s mission was ‘fighting cancer and its consequences countrywide for the benefit of all South Africans in cooperation with the community by supporting research, health education, information, care and supportive services’.
  • CANSA’s National Head Office relocated from Braamfontein to Bedfordview.
  • An information service was formed to gather, archive and distribute information about cancer and CANSA’s activities to cancer patients and their families, academics, medical professionals, students and members of the public. This was later renamed the CANSA Science and Resource Centre in 2009.
  • The first Mobile Health Clinic was introduced in the Free State. CANSA now has nine mobile clinics that travel to remote areas to provide screening and early detection programmes.
  • CANSA, as a member of the Tobacco Action Group, played a major role in the anti-tobacco legislation of 1999 to ban advertising and sponsorship activities of tobacco products.
  • The Sanlam Cancer Challenge was launched in 1993 that has resulted in drawing more than 40 000 golf players country-wide and in over 800 golf club competitions.


  • CANSA modernised its image, adopting a new logo and corporate message ‘Striving for a Cancer Smart South Africa’.
  • CANSA introduced its integrated three-tiered (research, advocacy and health programmes) service to all people affected by cancer and the general public.
  • The CANSA Shavathon phenomenon hit South Africa with thousands of people affected by cancer and members of the general public shaving off, dying or cutting their hair in solidarity with cancer Survivors. The campaign continued to gain momentum each year and has become an important event on South Africa’s annual calendar.
  • CANSA’s environmental awareness campaign was launched, taking a stand on environmental issues by actively communicating CANSA’s researched-based position statement on cancer and the environment.
  • Taking its advocacy role as cancer ‘watchdog’ to the next level, CANSA launched the ‘CANSA Seal of Recognition’, awarding products proven to help reduce the cancer risk with ‘Smart Choice’ and ‘SunSmart Choice’ labels.
  • The global movement, Relay For Life, was introduced in 2005 that honours and salutes just over 5 500 Survivors and enjoys the participation of about 4 500 teams per year.
  • The lymphoedema programme was introduced during the inaugural Women’s Health launch in 2009.


  • CANSA strives to keep the fight against cancer a top priority with policy makers.
  • CANSA becomes a member of the Cancer Alliance which is a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and cancer advocates, brought together under a common mandate as result of the May 2011 Voice of Cancer Survivor Forum. The Alliance seeks to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to effect change for all South Africans affected by cancer.
  • CANSA is a founding partner of the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCDA) which was formed on July 19 2013, as a response to the epidemic of NCDs in South Africa. The SANCDA is working with civil society and key stakeholders to fight the epidemic of NCDs in South Africa.
  • The Association promotes correct food labelling on products, especially of trans fatty acids based on scientific findings.
  • CANSA calls on the public and Government to protect children against harmful chemicals such as BPA in toys and baby bottles.
  • Three new health campaigns are introduced: Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Youth Health.
  • CANSA adapted its vision and message to that of ‘Imagine a World Without Cancer ’.
  • CANSA’s Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) is introduced, with the main aim of raising awareness of childhood cancers and providing tangible care and support to youth and families affected by cancer.
  • Lodges are opened in Pretoria, Durban and Polokwane for parents / guardians whose children are undergoing cancer treatment. (As well as support rooms in Kimberley and Port Elizabeth.)
  • In 2013, organised by the UICC and hosted by CANSA, United Nations (UN) officials, Ministries of Health and leading inter-national decision makers came together for the first time in Africa to discuss the growing global cancer burden at the 2013 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) in Cape Town.
  • In 2015 CANSA honoured Professor Michael Kew with a Lifetime Achievement Award to recognise his contribution, knowledge and understanding of primary liver cancer. Thanks to his work, a link between Hepatitis B and liver cancer was discovered, followed by a vaccine that is saving lives. CANSA is proud to have been a funder of Prof Kew’s research for over 30 years.
  • CANSA joins the online community on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn, as well as upgrading it’s website to be mobile friendly, to improve awareness of how to reduce cancer risk and offer online support to those affected by cancer.


We-can-imagine-a-world-without-cancer-2CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. As a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually), the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to improve cancer treatment and risk reduction of cancer, realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.

Our health programmes comprises health and education campaigns whereby we inform and educate our public how to reduce their risk for cancer, CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those patients and family affected by cancer, offer inter alia stoma and other clinical support, medical equipment hire as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.

We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas to accommodate out-of-town cancer patients when they receive their cancer treatment plus one hospitium based in Polokwane, as well as CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

For more info, visit or join on social media for more information: CANSA The Cancer Association of South Africa on Facebook, @CANSA on Twitter, Pinterest and @CancerAssociationOfSouthAfrica on Instagram.

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1931 - 2021. 90 Year Anniversary

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