As told by Ghada Sawalmah
Breast cancer is the leading cause of mortality due to cancer among women in the UAE. As in most of the cancer types, an early detection is a key determinant in breast cancer and makes a significant difference in the chances of recovery and survival rates. Without proper awareness of the early warning signs, the breast cancer can go undetected for a long period of time before the lumps in the breasts are of significance. All women are at risk for developing breast cancer, and this risk increases with age, long-term hormonal therapy, personal and family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, high breast density, obesity, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Regular self-breast examinations can help the women detect any abnormality in their breasts. A clinical-breast examination, a mammogram or a breast MRI can help to further rule out / detect cancer. Needless to say, it is easier to treat when the cancer is detected early. Lack of awareness, ignoring warning signs, and late presentation to the clinic are some of the leading causes of high breast cancer mortality rate (11.6%) in the UAE. This can be cut down to a great extent with proper patient education and early screenings.
At Gargash Hospital, we have made it our mission to spread awareness on breast cancer. As in the past, we have been conducting breast cancer awareness campaigns – both online and offline. Our senior Ob-Gyn doctors have been spearheading our community-outreach programs and educating the mass on early warning signs, self-examination, clinical examination, need for mammogram, frequency of mammogram according to age group, risks factors, and lifestyle modifications required to reduce the risk factors. We have been conducting free mammography and gynecologic consultations regularly. Through various channels, we have been able to reach out to about 90,000 women so far. These programs have been well received by the community members, and we have been getting inquiries from various corporates too.
As part of our ongoing campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early screenings, we recently organized a fashion walk named Warriors’ Way Forward to demonstrate to the community that it is possible to a have a normal life after cancer. During the event, few breast cancer survivors walked the ramp and shared stories of their battle with cancer and how they overcame it or are dealing with it. The strength and determination shown by these warriors was truly inspiring. We had two fashion designers – Ms. Rana Al Sayed & Ms. Rosa Abubaker, design special outfits for these women battling with breast cancer. We also engaged few other members of the community like Cotton On, ME Kombucha, etc., who were doing their bit to make the life easier for the cancer patients. We hope to bring forth more such events to raise awareness and engage the community as a whole and extend the support to the cancer patients that they deserve.
To sum up, self-awareness is of paramount importance when it comes to breast cancer. My recommendations to the ladies would be:
– Understand your risk factors.
– Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
– Extend support to those who need it.
– Do regular self-breast examinations.
– Do not ignore warning signs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your gynec doctor.
– Schedule annual mammograms if you are over 40.
– Never despair if the unfortunate happens. Reach out for help. There’s a way forward.