x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lubna hopes friend's death can help break cancer taboo

Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi says women must know the importance of regular screenings.

ABU DHABI // Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi said the taboo that stifles discussion of cancer in the UAE had to be broken and that women must know the importance of regular screenings for breast cancer and other forms of the disease. The UAE's Minister of Foreign Trade spoke out for the first time about a close friend's death from breast cancer, in hope that her story would encourage women to take more responsibility for their health.

Her university friend, Linda, missed an annual mammogram and did not learn that she had breast cancer until it was too late. "Cancer can be curable if there is early detection," Sheikha Lubna said. "We want women to think about self-examination. It's something that's very easy to let slip. A lot of women think only about breast cancer but cervical cancer is also dangerous. Facilities for testing for both breast and cervical cancer were now widely available in the UAE, with mammogram machines staffed by women and female gynaecologists working in the country's hospitals, she said.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the UAE and most women with the disease learn about it in advanced stages, when the chances of being cured are much lower and treatment is much more invasive. Doctors say that is because many women in the UAE do not examine themselves to check for unusual lumps and because there is a general lack of awareness about the disease.