Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Abu Dhabi doctor believes UAE is 'moving forward' in fight against cancer

Cleveland Clinic oncologist said more early screenings and medical advancements would lead to an eventual reduction in cancer rates

Visitors look at operation theatre lights at the Arab Health conference held at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai. Pawan Singh/The National
Visitors look at operation theatre lights at the Arab Health conference held at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai. Pawan Singh/The National

An Abu Dhabi doctor believes increased awareness of cancer risks could lead to a fall in cases in the region, despite gloomy forecasts from global health chiefs.

Dr Stephen Grobmyer, chair of the Oncology Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said a greater understanding of the importance of early screenings was playing a key role in the battle against cancer.

There is no magic bullet but there are reasons to be positive

Dr Stephen Grobmyer

The World Health Organisation predicted the number of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which included the Middle East, would reach almost 1 million by 2030.

This would represent almost double the number of cancer cases in the region in 2012, when the number stood at 555,000.

However, Dr Grobmeyer said a combination of medical advances and people being more aware of what they needed to do in order to stay healthy, was going to lead to a decline in the number of cases.

“Based on all the various factors it’s my understanding the number of cancer patients will decrease, but it won’t happen overnight,” he said.

“There is no magic bullet but there are reasons to be positive about it.”

One of these reasons, he said, was a recent report by the American Cancer Society, which said there was a two per cent drop in mortality rates from the disease, from 2016 to 2017 in the US.

This represented the country’s biggest ever single-year drop in the level of reported cancer related deaths.

He said while the figures were not related to this region, there was every reason to be hopeful the same practices that worked so well in his native country could also be successfully adopted in the UAE.

Dr Grobmyer said the “amazing” results from immunotherapy - a type of treatment that boosts the body's natural defenses to fight cancer - and an increase in the number of people going for early cancer screenings, had given him every reason to believe the medical profession was on the right track, not just in the UAE but all across the globe.

“The good news is there is evidence we are moving forward when it comes to combating cancer,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t work that still needs to be done though.

“A big challenge is continuing to educate people on the value of early screenings.”

He made his comments on the third day of the Arab Health exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre.

Another way the war against cancer could be won, he said, was by people coming forward for tests if their families had cancer in their history.

“A lot of families have high incidences of cancer which is why they should share their medical histories with us,” he said.

“Doctors might see a pattern that meant nothing to others.”

Each year there are roughly 4,500 new cases of cancer being detected in the UAE, with the most common forms of the disease being breast, colorectal and lung cancers.

Another leading cancer doctor told The National the UAE traditionally had lower cancer rates than other countries because of its short history and relatively youthful population.

“We’ve had lower figures than other countries because 75 per cent of the population is under the age of 35,” said Dr Falah Al Khatib, oncologist at Mediclinic City Hospital’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Dubai.

“In western countries most of the population is above the age of 50.”

He said people could combat cancer by the traditional means of eating healthily, exercising and not smoking.

“You have to keep an eye on your weight,” she said.

“But there are also other measures you can undertake to help prevent cancer.”

He said that early screenings were key, particularly for women in the UAE who were at risk of breast cancer.

He also called on women in the UAE to begin regular screenings for breast cancer from the age of 40.

He also said cancer differed from other diseases because it was more than likely the result of years of neglect and bad habits, rather than a virus which had suddenly been contracted by an individual.

Updated: January 30, 2020 06:07 PM

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