South Africa Abbott Oncology adds a splash of colour and …

….inspiration to theatre corridor at Helen Joseph Breast Clinic – Abbott Oncology has sponsored the design and painting of a brilliantly coloured, inspiring mural on the walls and ceiling of a corridor at the Helen Joseph Breast Clinic. It’s the route along which patients are wheeled to the operating theatre and the purpose of the image is to encourage, instill confidence and faith, and inspire. For Abbott, this helps fulfill a strongly held company philosophy – caring.

The TEAM from Abbott's Speciality Care Department, making a difference!

The TEAM from Abbott’s Speciality Care Department, making a difference!

In June, the Abbott team took up brushes and helped to paint the mural at the hospital. “It was an inspiring experience for each one of us,” says Meredith Chambers, product manager at Abbott Oncology. At Abbott,we strive to go beyond just providing medication to actually enrich patient’s lives and add value. I believe this project really will make that difference.”

The sponsorship came about through Abbott’s relationship with Dr Carol Benn, who founded and runs the Breast Care Clinics at Chris Hani Baragwanath, Helen Joseph, Johannesburg and Milpark hospitals. “The Breast Clinic at Helen Joseph does amazing work and we wanted to do something to assist,” says Chambers, who was responsible for allocation of the sponsorship.

A splash of colour and inspiration!

A splash of colour and inspiration!

Says Louise Turner, COO of The Breast Health Foundation, a registered non-governmental organisation that helped facilitate the sponsorship and the project: “The Breast Health Foundation team, including myself, are all breast cancer survivors. Besides education and awareness building around breast cancer one of our key roles is to offer support to patients at the Helen Joseph and other clinics. We are well aware of the trauma that accompanies breast cancer diagnosis – its life changing. Travelling down that corridor to the theatre you are very apprehensive. The mural has made a big difference – instead of being wheeled down a corridor sadly in need of refurbishment, patients are met with a bright flower filled landscape with smiling people and bold messages like: ‘believe in yourself’, ‘embrace life every day’, and ‘be positive’.”

The Helen Joseph Breast Clinic is not your average public hospital facility. It is an open clinic, which means public sector patients don’t need a referral from a local or regional clinic to be examined or get treatment. Staff are very dedicated and caring, and treatment is progressive, with reconstructive surgery often being done at the same time as curative surgery. About 800 new patients are examined at the clinic every month, and another 1000 receive follow-up treatment. Notes Turner: “Breast cancer is no longer a death sentence and it need not be disfiguring. With early detection, patients have a 95% chance of survival over five years. Reconstructive surgery is now commonly done at the same time that the cancer is removed. Awareness is critical, to ensure early detection of this disease. Breast self-examination is simple and needs to be done every month. Look for lumps, a change in the shape of the breast and, if there is a history of breast cancer in your family, know that you need to be extra vigilant.”

Regular breast self-examination and an annual mammogram after age 40 are as essential as putting on a safety belt when travelling in a motor vehicle – it could save your life, emphasises Turner. “If we can increase awareness, within 20 years we will virtually eliminate discovery of advanced or late stage breast cancers.”

The statistics are high. “Globally, one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer and diagnosis in younger people in their thirties and forties is becoming common,” says Turner. “South Africa’s National Cancer Registry, which is not up to date, puts local statistics at one in 27, with breast cancer the most common cancer for women after cervical cancer. Another frightening statistic is that South Africa has the highest incidence of male breast cancer in the world — its 3% of all reported cases compared to the global average of 1%.”

Theatre corridor at Helen Joseph Breast Clinic

Theatre corridor at Helen Joseph Breast Clinic

In South Africa, many instances of breast cancer still go undiagnosed and untreated due to fear, superstition and stigma, Turner notes. “This must change. There are now public sector breast clinics across the country that make the expensive therapies possible including – the mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies needed for diagnosis – that were not available in the past. And medicines are continually advancing, becoming more effective.”

Adds Chambers: “Abbott’s values are: pioneering, achieving, caring and enduring. While a big focus ispioneering new, more effectual medicines and therapies, we never lose sight of what we are trying to achieve – wellness. Its modern medicine coupled with awareness, knowledge and vigilance that lead the fight against breast cancer.

“We hope the mural does inspire and impart courage, and we thank every individual who took part in its creation and helped make it possible.”


Abbott Laboratories S.A. (Pty) Ltd.:Meredith Chambers, Product Manager for Lucrin.

HJ Breast Clinic:Louise Turner, COO of The Breast Health Foundation.