Genetic Mutation
Photo Credit: Heroes of Groote Schuur

A team of 50 doctors, nurses and other specialists travel from Groote Schuur to the Northern Cape to help identify the genetic mutation that causes colon cancer in certain families there.


Northern Cape, South Africa (25 November 2022) – Nurse Ursula Algar organises a massive health drive each year for a group in the Northern Cape. The drive assists around 40 families, all of which have been identified as carriers for a specific South African genetic mutation that causes colon cancer.

Every year, a team goes up to test the families and help them prepare. Nurse Algar shared what the preparation are like and why they go and help each year.

Heroes of Groote Schuur is a Facebook page dedicated to highlighting the amazing people who work or visit the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. The page is highlighting all the incredible work being done by the staff who keep everything running smoothly. Heroes featured on the page often have the most interesting jobs.

“Every year I help organise a Groote Schuur-led team for an outreach programme to the Northern Cape. It was originally set up as a pre-emptive service for potential colon cancer patients, but now offers other gynae services, as well as providing a learning opportunity for health care professionals.

In about 1997 a specific South African genetic mutation that causes colon cancer in certain families was identified by Human Genetics here. There are about 40 families from the Northern Cape that have that same mutation, which has been dated to be about 200 years old. This is what started the ball rolling in terms of going up there — to test anyone who was related and find out whether they carry or don’t carry the mutation.

Every year I first go up on a prep trip to prepare patients for colonoscopies.

Then we go up with a bigger team of about 50 to carry out the colonoscopies. We’re there for a week, and we see about 120 people. There are doctors, nurses, and genetic counsellors from Groote Schuur. But we also bring along other professionals from the state system who we think would benefit – it becomes a bit of a masterclass in colonoscopies because you’ll be doing 100 in a week.

We’ve also expanded what we do on the trip. There are gynaes and a breast surgeon who uses the mammogram from the Pink Drive, which accompanies us. We go to Upington, and we then go to Garies, and we try to go to Port Nolloth.

We also have a team from Olympus, who bring and look after all the equipment for the colonoscopies. We’ll take over one of the rooms at the hospitals we visit and fill it up with this specialised equipment that is very high-tech and the best of the best.

The point of all of this is to save lives and to save money – in that we do scopes for those people for whom genetic testing has identified as ‘positive’. The genetic testing does cost money upfront, but in the long run it saves lives and resources.” — Nurse Ursula Algar

Sources: Heroes of Groote Schuur
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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