x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Colon cancer screening launched in the UAE for the first time

Abu Dhabi is the first emirate in the UAE to introduce colorectal screening that could save numerous lives.

Dr. Jala Asaa Asaad Taher, section head for cancer control and prevention at Haad, says Abu Dhabi is the first emirate in the UAE to introduce colorectal screening. Sammy Dallal / The National
Dr. Jala Asaa Asaad Taher, section head for cancer control and prevention at Haad, says Abu Dhabi is the first emirate in the UAE to introduce colorectal screening. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // A cancer-screening programme is being implemented in Abu Dhabi for the first time, the health authority said yesterday.

Colorectal cancer, a malignant tumour that occurs in the colon or rectum, is the second most common form of cancer in the emirate.

But Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) is fighting back and encouraging people aged between 40 and 75 to have themselves checked as part of the emirate-wide screening programme, which has started this year.

Abu Dhabi is the first emirate in the UAE to introduce colorectal screening, Dr Jalaa Taher, the section head of cancer control and prevention at Haad, said.

“It’s among the killer cancers, and it shouldn’t be, because you can prevent it,” she said.

Twenty clinics and hospitals – public and private – will be offering screening this year.

It involves either a colonoscopy, which should be done every 10 years, or a fecal immunochemical test, which detects blood in a stool sample and is recommended every two years.

These procedures are covered for Emiratis through thiqa insurance cards and expatriates are urged to check their insurance.

“We are trying to follow the experience in other countries, for example the UK, US and Australia, where they introduce this programme and now they can see the effect of it. There is already a reduction in mortality,” Dr Taher said at yesterday’s launch of a campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

About 70 per cent of cases in Abu Dhabi are at an advanced stage when detected.

“Usually they discover the cases in an advanced stage, so most of these people will die eventually. Overall, I think it’s the third leading cause of cancer death in Abu Dhabi,” Dr Taher said.

“It’s different than other cancers, like breast cancer. With breast cancer the lady will already come with a lump or the mammogram will detect the early changes, but the changes are already there.

“[With] colorectal cancer, the colonoscopy can detect the polyps that are still benign and did not change to cancer, so if we remove this polyp, there is no chance for cancer to appear.”

A series of events, which will visit malls, will be held this month as part of the drive.

They will include giving people the chance to go inside a giant inflatable colon.

Online bookings for the screenings will be available by late May at www.haad.ae/simplycheck.

ecleland@thenational.ae