Behind every patient: Healthcare heroes in Africa

Behind every breast cancer patient is a team of health care professionals committed to supporting women throughout their cancer journey and delivering safe, quality treatment and care.

The breast cancer patient journey can be difficult, including health, mental, social and financial hurdles. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients are faced with new challenges to access and maintain their care, and are also more vulnerable to severe illness and outcomes from the coronavirus.

Alongside the bravery of breast cancer patients, healthcare professionals (HCPs) have been similarly challenged by the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic. In response, they have adapted care and treatment pathways and pursued innovative ways to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on patients, continuing to help people get the best care possible. HCPs have stood strong on the front lines and remain at the ready to support and provide treatments to women when they need it.

This urgency, courage and tireless pursuit of solutions by the team of health care professionals #BehindEveryPatient is something to be celebrated.

For Breast Cancer Awareness month 2020, we wanted to say‘ thank you’ to the doctors, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists, pathologists and all those involved in providing breast cancer care both inside and outside hospitals. We acknowledge and appreciate the critical role they play, and not just to patients, but to families and communities at large.

Healthcare heroes

In Kenya and South Africa, Roche has partnered with advocacy groups to show appreciation to Cancer Health Care Providers (HCPs), who have gone above and beyond to ensure patients receive the necessary care, especially amid a pandemic.

In Kenya, we worked with the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO), Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH, N), and in South Africa we partnered with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), to encourage people to tell their stories of bravery, compassion and dedication from HCPs and carers who not only deliver quality treatment and care, but deliver hope and strength to their patients.

We would like to thank everyone who shared their stories, using the #BehindEveryPatient hashtag, and the health care professionals and carers who make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. For every story shared on social media, Roche made a donation to KENCO in Kenya and CANSA in South Africa, donating over €6,000/$8,000USD to the organisations to contribute towards their support of breast cancer patients.

Meet the heroes supporting breast cancer patients in Kenya and South Africa

Every breast cancer journey holds moments that demonstrate the exceptional contributions and compassion given by healthcare professionals, that empower and revitalise women battling breast cancer.

Dr. Catherine Nyongesa, Clinical Oncologist

“I became the first female radio oncologist in Kenya…I am happy to report we are now offering radiation oncology training at the University of Nairobi, the first one ever.” Dr. Nyongesa leads the country’s largest cancer care centre at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi.

Dr. Asim Jamal, Medical Oncologist“ There has been so much advancement in science that has given us so many opportunities. Meaning for all patients with breast cancer, there’s hope.” Dr. Jamal is an Associate Professor and medical oncologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital.

Dr. Coccia Portugal is an independent oncologist, who runs her own private breast cancer care and oncology practice in Lynnwood, Pretoria. She is a globally renowned specialist and is regularly invited to speak at global conferences, events and broadcast mediums.

Millicent Kagonga, Caregiver & Advocate “[As a caregiver] I do a lot. I take some to the hospital…I also help the patients to open up to the doctors so that they get the help they need.” Millicent is a cancer survivor and founder of Symbol of Hope Warriors, a Community-based organization.

Monica Mphelo, Social Worker at Keurboom CANSA Care Home “Working with cancer patients is truly my passion and my calling, because I want to do anything in my power to help them get better. All my patients are important and special to me, and I am honoured to have been part of the healthcare workers who provided a service to South Africans whilst we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr. Devan Moodley is a Medical Oncologist. He runs the Oncology Department at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre, the first private teaching hospital in South Africa.

Show your support for the healthcare heroes behind every patient

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in both Kenya and the third most deadly.1 Yet, there are only 22 oncologists for a population of 46 million people.2

In South Africa, research shows that breast cancer is the most common cancer in all women, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 25 in South Africans, according to the 2016 National Cancer Registry (NCR).3

Our commitment to improving breast cancer care

For Roche, it’s important that we do our part to ensure people all over the world have access to quality health care. We recognize that a strong health workforce is critically important to strong health systems that can meet the needs of patients. By working hand-in-hand with partners, including health care professionals, we can reduce the barriers and hurdles patients may encounter on the way to diagnosis, treatment and ultimately recovery.

Now more than ever, it’s more important to recognize and celebrate HCPs and their contributions, sacrifice and courage to meet patient needs during the pandemic.

For Breast Cancer Awareness month, and every month, we hope you’ll join us to say ‘thank you’ to the healthcare professionals across Africa by sharing the stories of the people who have had a positive impact on your breast cancer journey, the journey of a loved one, or on the members of your community.


Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO)Aga Khan University HospitalKenyatta National HospitalStandard GroupCANSA


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