Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Dr Essaf Barahma and Dr Mouza al Hattawi from the breast cancer team talk to a patient at Rashid Hospital in Dubai.
Dr Essaf Barahma and Dr Mouza al Hattawi from the breast cancer team talk to a patient at Rashid Hospital in Dubai.

Education key in breast cancer fight

As rates of cancer rise in the UAE, experts stress the importance of breast examinations and screenings.

DUBAI // Breast cancer tends to run in families, something Leila Ashawab knows all too well. The 49-year-old has already had the disease, and after the recent discovery of a second lump, fears she may have it again. She is also concerned for her three daughters, ages 16 to 25, but cannot tell if they really understand what is at stake.

"I've told them to take care of their diets and their lifestyles, and that they should go for routine check-ups all the time," she said. "They don't tell me if they're afraid of the risks; maybe they hide it from me." Dr Zaid al Mazam, the head of the breast cancer unit at Rashid Hospital and one of the doctors working with Mrs Ashawab, stressed the importance of early, preventive health measures.

"You cannot decrease the number of cases without planning the future," he said. "In the US and the UK, awareness, diet and exercise started a long time ago. They are aware of the risks with fatty foods, lack of exercise and so on. Here the awareness is low and needs to be focused on." Rashid Hospital was the first hospital in the UAE to establish a unit dedicated solely to breast cancer, in 2004. Last year the facility launched an awareness campaign at malls and colleges, ahead of this year's decision by the Ministry of Health to introduce mandatory mammograms for women aged 40 to 69.

Breast cancer, which usually attacks the inner lining of the milk ducts, is the second most common type worldwide, after lung cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer is increasing, especially in European countries, where it is said to affect one in 16 women. It is the most common form of cancer in the Emirates, where 44 per cent of diagnoses are fatal, according to the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi.

Dr Mouza al Hattawi, a registrar in Rashid Hospital's breast cancer unit, said there had been a 50 per cent increase in the number of women coming to it - as many as 40 to 50 a week. "There has been a dramatic increase, around 80 per cent, in the last 10 years, starting from the late 1990s," said Dr Essaf Barahma, a consultant at the unit. "This includes not only the Gulf, but Iraq and Iran as well, and we've noticed that it is affecting women as young as 28 or 29 years of age."

Dr al Mazam is advising that women in their early 20s be educated on how to administer self-examinations. They should also get screened every three years, he added. "We get cases of all ages - the youngest here being 24 years old," he said. "It is important for every woman to be aware of the risks." The hospital recently introduced two methods of early detection that have yet to be implemented in the rest of the Gulf: ductoscopies and vacuum-assisted biopsies. A ductoscopy involves using a tiny camera to examine the breast's interior.

"It shows us what is going on and if there are any abnormalities," Dr Hattawi said, explaining that it allowed doctors to remove lumps at an early stage. "At a later stage, the cancer is already travelling through the body and bones, and it is too late to do surgery." nsamaha@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A Brabus Mercedes 6x6 Sports Utility Vehicle is readied for display during Auto China 2014 in Beijing, on April 20. Adrian Bradshaw / EPA

In pictures: Auto China 2014 exhibition

Leading automakers have gathered in Beijing for the kickoff of China’s biggest car show, but lacklustre growth and environmental restrictions in the world’s largest car market have thrown uncertainty into the mix. More than 1,100 vehicles are being showcased.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inspire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National