South Africa: Oncology Nurses – our ‘shining stars’

On 3 June, International Cancer Survivors Day1, we came together globally to celebrate hope and life with cancer survivors and their families. Be Cancer Aware (BCA) has decided to take this opportunity to focus on the support cancer patients receive during and after their treatment. Oncology nurses provide one of the biggest support systems, so BCA be dedicating the entire month of June to thanking them.

“Their caring attitude made me feel special,” Ann Steyn tells BCA. “Thank you in a big way,” says Barbara Nico van Zyl, a cancer survivor from Cape Town.

This is why BCA is taking the opportunity to remind the public of the contribution oncology nurses have made to cancer care, and the medical world. Their continued encouragement and nurturing has and continues to change and improve the lives of many cancer survivors and patients.

BCA wants to acknowledge the significant role played by all oncology nurses in the lives of patients, families as well as the health and welfare of communities in South Africa. Oncology nursing is demanding and draining, but these nurses always have a warm smile and kind word to share with their patients. 

Nursing cancer patients back to health

Nurses are the backbone of the South African healthcare system. Without them, hospitals, clinics and private practices would be unable to operate. Their services and expertise are irreplaceable.

Oncology nurses help patients through a trying period that can span months, and even years. We recognise that this type of care takes special dedication. Nurses are usually the closest to the patients, and their selfless dedication, even in extremely busy oncology practices and hospital oncology treatment rooms and wards, should be acknowledged and congratulated.

Oncology nurses have changed the medical landscape

Prior to 1950, cancer was mainly treated with surgery. However, as treatment methods evolved, so did the role of nursing. But it was during the 1970s that the real changes happened. The 1971 National Cancer Act in the United States revolutionised cancer programmes. They began focusing on improving quality of life and reducing the incidence of cancer. This allowed for the role of nursing in oncology to expand, and since then, it has continued to develop.2

The role of a modern oncology nurse includes being a caregiver, educator, administrator and almost-always a “counsellor”. Oncology nurses work with people who have been newly diagnosed with cancer, receiving on-going treatment or are in remission.2

Practicing as an oncology nurse requires additional training. This allows them to work within different areas of oncology treatment and care, such as: chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, prevention and early detection, and palliative care.2 

Thank you!

Despite the obstacles many oncology nurses face, they work tirelessly and effortlessly, treating their patients with care, compassion and dignity.

“Oncology nurses are often faced with looking after terminally ill patients and this must be incredibly hard and depressing,” says Anne Duggan whose sister lost a four-year battle with cancer.

“As a family member, you feel so utterly helpless and desperate but I was always so touched and encouraged at how the nurses came to her ward and greeted her with such loving enthusiasm each morning. It was during this time that I realised their jobs are not just jobs…it’s a calling.”

Barbara Nico van Zyl adds: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the nurses for the manner in which they treat their patients…I have also noticed the pride they have for their profession, which made matters much easier for everybody around them. Thank you in a big way. You are shining stars,” she says.

Ann Steyn says her nurses made her feel welcome and put her at ease. “What could have been an awful experience became bearable and by the end of the treatment we knew a lot about each other. I would pop in to see them when I came for my check ups.” This shows just how important nurses are to patient care and morale.

With this in mind, Roche and BCA take this opportunity to honour the committed and passionate work of all oncology nurses in South Africa. Their loyalty and delivery of quality patient care has changed the lives of all cancer sufferers and survivors.

Cancer patients and survivors can share the positive experiences they have had with their oncology nurses on the BCA Facebook page: Be Cancer Aware.  Further information on cancer can be found at

About Be Cancer Aware

Be Cancer Aware is a reliable source of information for those newly diagnosed with cancer.  Together with resources such as a website, newsletter, and social media, Be Cancer Aware hopes to educate, support and encourage patients with appropriate information and resources.  Here you’ll find information including expert opinions, inspirational stories from patients and survivors and the latest news of local cancer activities.

Be Cancer Aware aim’s to offer quality cancer awareness and educational information to South African’s.

Awareness of cancer is vital in the fight to reduce the burden of the disease and improve the lives of patients.

BCA is supported by Roche Products (Pty) Ltd in the interest of cancer education and awareness.


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