x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Early breast cancer diagnosis saves women’s lives

Women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage now compared to five years ago, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi has announced.

ABU DHABI // Women have a better chance of surviving breast cancer because the condition is being diagnosed earlier.

Last year only 16 per cent of cases in Abu Dhabi were diagnosed at a late stage compared with 64 per cent in 2007.

“We are really thrilled. It is a great achievement and we are working on maintaining this rate,” said Jalaa Taher, manager of non-communicable diseases at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

“Early detection equals saved lives. If you detect it early and get treatment early it means you can survive the diagnosis of breast cancer.”

Breast cancer has four stages of severity defined by the prevalence and size of the lymph nodes and tumours. If caught at stage one, the chance of survival is between 95 and 100 per cent.

Breast-cancer deaths among Emiratis have also fallen by 55 per cent over the past five years, said Dr Taher.

Despite the achievements, it remains the most common form of cancer in Abu Dhabi, accounting for 22 per cent of all new cancer cases last year and 41 per cent of cancer cases among women.

Worldwide, one women every 24 seconds is found to have breast cancer and one woman dies from the condition every 68 seconds.

“These are alarming figures,” Dr Taher said. “It’s a global issue and also a local issue.”

Breast cancer is the second-biggest killer of women after cardiovascular disease. Last year there were 54 deaths in Abu Dhabi, the youngest only 24. Half the women found to have breast cancer were between 49 and 54.

The authority’s annual breast-cancer campaign is part of the six-month Cancer Wave health initiative launched last week targeting the four most common cancers – breast, colorectal, lung and cervical.

The first phase is focusing on breast cancer to tie in with worldwide Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October. It aims to highlight the importance of regular screening and self-examinations.

From the age of 20, women should carry out monthly self-examinations and visit a GP every three years. After the age of 40, they should have a mammogram every two years.

“The main message is to do regular screening because regular screening saves lives,” said Dr Taher. The authority aims to have 20,0000 women screened for breast cancer every year.

“We encourage women who discover any symptoms not to take it easily. Do not consult friends, go straight to your physician.”

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include lumps, unusual swelling and a change in the size and shape of the breast.

“Women play vital roles in society,” said Dr Taher. “They are mothers, educators, workers, leaders and motivators. They thus deserve our best efforts to ensure their good health and safety. 

“Through our campaign we aim to educate the public on important facts and figures as well as the causes, detection and treatment of breast cancer and encourage them to adapt habits that benefit not only those afflicted with the condition but their families and caregivers as well.”

The campaign will advise on preventive lifestyle measures women can take to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

“We know there are some risk factors: late menopause, taking hormones, such as birth control, for a long time, alcohol and smoking,” said Dr Taher. “Reducing these risk factors lowers the chance of breast cancer.”

To book screenings and mammograms, the authority has created a special booking tool on its cancer awareness website that provides a database of healthcare facilities in the emirate with screening options. Alternatively, call 800 555 for more information.

Activities during the breast cancer campaign include a Walkathon at Zayed Sports City on October 25, a Pink Polo match on November 8 and a charity fashion show at Marina Mall on November 18.

jbell@thenational.ae