x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cancer screen follow-up shunned

Women are failing to attend follow-up breast cancer screening appointments, putting themselves at risk.

DUBAI // A rapidly growing num-ber of women are being screened for breast cancer, but too many risk their lives by not returning for follow-up tests when called.

With demand soaring, the Pink Caravan initiative, which offers free screening, has extended its Breast Cancer Awareness Month beyond October.

However, between 15 and 20 per cent of those asked to return for more tests do not show.

"Sometimes we ask the person to return because they need further investigation," said Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, secretary general of the Friends of Cancer Patients, which started the Pink Caravan.

"But we have been getting less interest in coming for the follow-up. Some people don't want to know if they have cancer or not, and some are just scared."

She said that of 10 abnormalities found, typically nine are benign.

"This is what we're trying to explain, but unfortunately people have lots of excuses. There are a lot of benign conditions, but the lady has to know what she has. We don't know if that person has a benign lesion or a malignant one - the only way we can know is by doing further investigation."

She said that despite the high profile of the pink month campaign every October there was a need to work even harder to increase awareness.

"The awareness that we need to put out there is that breast cancer, if detected early, is curable and early intervention is important. A person can be cured and live a normal life again. We need to change the concept that cancer equals death and cancer is incurable.

"The whole idea of the Pink Caravan and other initiatives across the world is to save lives. If we detect the disease early there will be a high cure rate."

Each year the Pink Caravan visits remote parts of the UAE with a mobile screening unit that is escorted by riders on horses with pink bridles. This year's tour took place in April and the 2013 campaign is scheduled for February.

In addition, the team marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month by organising clinics in workplaces and other locations across all seven emirates. Such is the demand this year that the campaign is continuing and is likely to be extended until the start of next year's tour.

"We have been asked to visit and conduct these activities, we didn't initiate it," added Dr Al Madhi. "The other exciting thing is that we're going to places and they're asking us to come back again, which shows that people are in need of these services. During October we conducted over 40 clinics and screened more than 1,000 ladies."

The screenings are open to everyone living in the UAE, and are attended by men as well as women. "Men can get breast cancer but to a much lesser degree. If you have 100 breast cancer patients, one case will be a man."

The clinics are manned by volunteer medical staff such as Hanadi Ammoura, a nurse who lives in Ajman. She said: "I am involved in raising awareness. I educate the ladies who are coming for examination, I explain to them about the importance of early detection.

"We ask all who attend our clinic to go and spread this knowledge to others - tell your sisters, tell your cousins, tell everyone."

Dr Al Madhi went on:  “This is what we’re trying to explain, but unfortunately people have lots of excuses. There are a lot of benign conditions, but the lady has to know what she has. We don’t know if that person has a benign lesion or a malignant one – the only way we can know is by doing further investigation.”

She said that despite the high profile of the pink-month campaign every October there was a need to work even harder to increase awareness.

“The awareness that we need to put out there is that breast cancer, if detected early, is curable and early intervention is important. A person can be cured and live a normal life again. We need to change the concept that cancer equals death and cancer is incurable.

“The whole idea of the Pink Caravan and other initiatives across the world is to save lives. If we detect the disease early there will be a high cure rate.”

Each year the Pink Caravan visits remote parts of the UAE with a mobile screening unit that is escorted by riders on horses with pink bridles. This year’s tour took place in April and next year’s campaign is scheduled for February.

In addition, the team marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month by organising clinics in workplaces and other locations across all seven emirates. Such is the demand this year that the campaign is continuing, and is likely to be extended until the start of next year’s tour.

“We have been asked to visit and conduct these activities, we didn’t initiate it,” added Dr Al Madhi. “The other exciting thing is that we’re going to places and they’re asking us to come back again, which shows that people are in need of these services. During October we conducted over 40 clinics and screened more than 1,000 ladies.”

The screenings are open to everyone living in the UAE, and are attended by men as well as women. “Men can get breast cancer but to a much lesser degree. If you have 100 breast cancer patients, one case will be a man.”

The clinics are manned by volunteer medical staff such as Hanadi Ammoura, a nurse who lives in Ajman.

She said: “I am involved in raising awareness. I educate the ladies who are coming for examination, I explain to them about the importance of early detection.

“We ask all who attend our clinic to go and spread this knowledge to others – tell your sisters, tell your cousins, tell everyone.”

 

csimpson@thenational.ae