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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has
been honoured for his efforts to better
the lives of cancer sufferers

Tamara O'Reilly

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been lauded for his efforts to improve access to care and medicines for cancer sufferers from underprivileged communities.

The US-based George Washington University Cancer Institute presented him with the Cancer Compassion Award at a gala event which is held annually to raise funds for cancer programmes in the Washington area and also honours those who have made considerable contributions to aiding people suffering from the disease.

The George Washington University Medical Centre is an internationally recognised academic health centre that provides high-quality medical care in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. According to the university, the Cancer Compassion Award is presented to an individual (or organisation) who has exemplified devotion to improving access to and quality of care among medically underserved communities.

Accepting his award, Tutu said he was not sure whether such an honour was deserved as much more work still needs to be done in South Africa to raise awareness of the disease and to assist those living with it.

Tutu himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and is an example that if the disease is detected early it can be treated and cured. According to the Prostate Cancer Association, of which Tutu is a patron, this kind of cancer afflicts one in six men over the age of 50 and each year more than 5 000 men are diagnosed with this life-threatening illness in South Africa.

Recently he also supported a campaign to stop companies from profiting from generic drugs which would have caused further suffering for patients who can’t afford the drugs.

Tutu already has several honorary doctorates and awards to his name, among them the Nobel Peace Prize for his untiring efforts in calling for equality, peace and reconciliation during the apartheid years and the democracy that followed. He was elected and ordained the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa.

He is revered around the world as a man who constantly lends his voice to human rights injustices and calling for peace in South Africa as well as countries experiencing turmoil. In 1984 he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, and the Magubela Prize for Liberty in 1986. In February 2007 he was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, President of India.

According to Cansa (www.cansa.org.za) the most common cancer in South Africa is skin cancer with about 20 000 reported new cases each year. Over 700 South Africans die each year from skin cancer, with the majority of those cases being malignant melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

It is estimated that 27 million people around the world might suffer with cancer by 2030.

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