Cancer Association of South Africa

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Eight decades ago, an organisation was born out of compassion for people whose lives had been touched by cancer - a significant milestone for any organisation and especially for a nonprofit organisation (NPO). Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA) rise from its humble beginnings during the Great Depression to being an internationally respected organisation can be attributed not only to loyal staff and donors who have believed in the organisation’s cause, but especially to the volunteers who have made CANSA their second family and who put their hearts and souls into its success.

Providing hope and dignity are two of the most important factors in the fight against cancer and embracing change without fear is the key to growth and success. These two core beliefs have sustained CANSA’s growth from its inception in 1931 when it was founded by a group of medical professionals who were concerned about the high incidence of cancer, to being a leading cancer control organisation in Southern Africa.

Today CANSA has over 30 Care Centres around the country and more than 5 000 volunteers and approximately 350 staff members. CANSA mobilises volunteers to offer health programmes and support in more than 500 communities across the country to ensure that cancer patients and their loved ones do not have to face cancer alone. CANSA is a big family of caring volunteers and staff who are united in this fight. The organisation has been caring for, and changing lives, of countless people for over 80 years.

During those 82 years, CANSA has seen the face of cancer change, the face of the country change and the face of its own organisation change. The milestones, achievements and the trials and tribulations CANSA experienced over the years not only strengthened CANSA’s programmes and structures, but also placed CANSA on a more sustainable footing. Today - 82 years and many steps later the organisation celebrates its vibrant past and position itself for the next exciting steps on our journey to a cancer-smart world.

1930s - 1960s

The story of CANSA began in September 1931 when 75 delegates representing 24 bodies as well as four individuals concerned about the suffering caused by cancer, convened the first National Cancer Conference. It was decided to establish a National Cancer Association and investigate the possibility of establishing a cancer register as well as special cancer centres or clinics in large hospitals throughout the country where the causes, optimal treatment of cancer and better diagnostic methods could be investigated.

1970s and 1980s

Since its inception the organisation has been committed to sponsoring research grants at major universities and research institutions.


The Cancer Care and Information Centre opened its doors to the public on 31 August 1991, to cater for the needs of newly-diagnosed cancer patients and to gather, archive and distribute information about cancer and CANSA’s activities to all stakeholders and interested parties.

2000 - 2005

CANSA embarked on a process of implementing for-profit business principles in a nonprofit environment.

2006 - 2011

CANSA is successfully positioned as a recognised leader in cancer control through its three-tier integrated unique service offering: research, advocacy and health programmes.

CANSA’s Unique Role and Service Delivery

Purpose and Mission

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa by offering a unique, integrated service to the public which involves holistic cancer care and support to all people affected by cancer. Its mission is to be the preferred nonprofit leader that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer.

Service Delivery

As a leading role-player in cancer research (R6 million spent annually), the scientific findings and knowledge gained from the organisation’s research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen its watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. CANSA has more than 350 staff, 5 000 volunteers and over 30 Care Centres countrywide and is thus well placed to deliver its service to most communities in South Africa.
CANSA’s wide-reaching health programme includes screening and cancer control, a home-away-from-home in the form of 12 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas, one Hospitium, based in Polokwane, for out-of-town cancer patients undergoing cancer treatment and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment. CANSA Care Centres and Care Clinics offer specialist care and treatment (stoma, lymphoedema, wound care, medical equipment hire), individual counselling and support groups for cancer patients and their loved ones. Furthermore, support is provided to children and their families who are affected by cancer.
The CANSA Science and Resource Centre runs a toll-free information service during office hours: 0800 22 66 22 and co-ordinates CANSA’s research projects.

CANSA gives out free CancerCare Coping Kits (audio programmes) in multiple languages.
Prevention and Early Detection
The most effective weapon against cancer is knowledge. If you consider that 1-in-4 individuals may be affected by the disease during their lifetime, you will realise how powerful knowledge is in terms of risk reduction, prevention and early detection. CANSA’s prevention and early detection programmes and campaigns promote material on a balanced diet and promote a balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise, not smoking, staying safe in the sun, doing regular self-examinations and undergoing regular medical check-ups. All prevention and early detection programmes and campaigns are underpinned by research.

CANSA’s Prevention and Early Detection Programmes and Campaigns

The following prevention and early detection campaigns are launched throughout the country during the course of the year: Sun Smart and Environment, Balanced Lifestyle, No-Tobacco, Youth and Children Health, Women’s and Men’s Health campaigns.

CANSA’s Research

As a leading role-player in cancer research, CANSA as an organisation and in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), through the Cancer Research Initiative in South Africa (CARISA), spends more than R6 million on various types of cancer research in South Africa every year.

CANSA’s Watchdog Role (Advocacy)

For CANSA to be more effective in its effort to control cancer and to act as a voice for the public, CANSA performs a Watchdog Role to influence South African policy makers and to create public awareness of known cancer-causing factors. Statistics show that 1 in 4 South Africans is affected by cancer in his or her lifetime. More than 100 000 South Africans are diagnosed with cancer yearly, with over 60 000 South Africans losing the battle against the disease each year.

CANSA’s Seal of Recognition

The CANSA Seal of Recognition (CSOR) is backed by research and is awarded to products that promote a balanced lifestyle and further contribute to cancer prevention by not containing any cancer-causing substances.

Beneficiaries of CANSA’s Service and Partners:

  • CANSA offers to all communities: a message of HOPE and an opportunity to get involved in the fight against cancer, by providing access to information and education.
  • CANSA provides all cancer survivors and all affected by cancer: with solidarity, support and care, as well as a sense of belonging by honouring, empowering and providing a platform to spread a message of HOPE, as Champions in CANSA’s programmes and projects.
  • CANSA provides volunteers: training with regards to the cancer challenge and enables them to get involved and to take ownership in the fight against cancer by sharing their resources and their talents in their own communities. CANSA relies on volunteers to assist in delivering their service to all communities, as the incidence of cancer is rising and more South Africans are needed to get actively involved in the fight against cancer.
  • CANSA provides to partners: an opportunity to achieve their goals in respect of their social responsibility, thereby enhancing their image and credibility in the market through sponsorships, partnerships and publicity, as partners of CANSA. 
  • CANSA provides to staff: an opportunity for learning and growth, thereby using their talents, passions and competencies to make a difference in their communities in the fight against cancer.

Fundraising Events and Projects
CANSA relies on income generated from its fundraising events and projects in order to sustain the Holistic Care & Support it provides to those affected by cancer.
CANSA’s Fundraising Events and Projects:

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