x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

'I was told I don't need cancer screening ... then I found a lump'

The doctor of a Jordanian woman brushed her off when she asked about breast cancer screening. Two years later she discovered she had the disease.

Hanan Zawaideh is now free of the disease, a year after ‘emotional, physical and psychological turmoil’.
Hanan Zawaideh is now free of the disease, a year after ‘emotional, physical and psychological turmoil’.

ABU DHABI // Hanan Zawaideh appealed to her gynaecologist for breast-cancer screening but was told it was not necessary.

Two years later, a diagnosis found she had the disease.

Ms Zawaideh, 52, a Jordanian, had asked her doctor at Al Noor Hospital about the correct way to perform a self-exam. She was told not to worry because she did not carry any of the risk factors.

Except she did. Not only did she have a family history of breast cancer, she was living a stressful life and her vitamin D levels were far below what is considered healthy.

Ms Zawaideh stopped seeing this doctor, her "favourite gynaecologist", because she was too busy.

"She informed me she was seeing about 70 patients in the span of eight or nine hours," said Ms Zawaideh. "She would always complain that she didn't have time to talk and couldn't spend more than seven to 10 minutes with each patient."

Two years later, she felt a lump while in the shower.

"By chance I happened to feel something hard with my fingertips," she said. "It was near my left breast. I decided not to tell anyone until the evening. We planned a family lunch that day and I carried on as normal. No one in my family noticed, except for my daughter, who could see the tears in my eyes."

Ms Zawaideh went to the hospital the next day for a mammogram, followed by a biopsy. After discussions with her three children, they decided she would travel to the United States for treatment.

The diagnosis was stage three triple-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive form of the disease that is not caused by genetics.

Ms Zawaideh is now free of the disease, a year after "emotional, physical and psychological turmoil".

"Mammography and screening are important but are not the solution," she said. "There are so many different variables, from exercise to the food you eat.

"Doctors need to take the time to educate their patients about these factors."

Dr Sara Alom, assistant hospital director at Al Noor Hospital, said doctors see 24 to 30 patients a day, depending on their speciality, the patient's complaint and whether the patient is new. Doctors spend an average of 20 minutes with each patient.

"The patient load on each doctor is sometimes too much during peak times … due to the unavailability of doctors," said Dr Alom.

She said patient complaints that they were being short-changed might be "exaggerated", but she acknowledged that "more doctors are needed to meet patient demand and to help reduce waiting times".