National cancer registry will help to reduce fatalities, doctors say
DUBAI // A new national index for cancer deaths will help to reduce the number of lives lost to the disease by creating efficient and targeted screening programmes, doctors have said.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention is collecting data for the index with the aim of reducing cancer mortality rates by 25 per cent by 2021. In 2014, 700 men and 500 women died of cancer in the UAE, according to the World Health Organisation.
Dr Mohanad Diab, consultant oncologist at NMC Royal and NMC Specialty Hospitals, said tests and awareness programmes are the most effective ways of tackling cancer as around 30 per cent of breast cancer cases are detected during routine screenings.
“We definitely need the cancer index, especially in sub-specialties. There is a cancer registry at present but it exists in government hospitals and private hospitals are not included,” said Dr Diab.
“We need data from private and public sector.”
An executive committee made up of private and government health care providers has been created to work on reducing cancer deaths, said Dr Muna Al Kuwari, director of specialised health care department at Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Last year the WHO said the number of new cancer cases in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes the Middle East, could rise to 961,098 by 2030, up from 555,318 new cases in 2012.
“What we know from prior experience is that having the data will help keep track of the different forms of the disease and help understand which kind of cancer is affecting the population in UAE,” said Dr Issam Badaoui, medical director at International SOS, a medical and travel security risk services company.
“This is an excellent initiative and a good target. We have to go back to prevention as early detection and prevention is key,” he said, adding he advised people not to smoke, to limit their alcohol consumption and ensure they get enough exercise to reduce their chances of developing cancer.
Dr Norbert Dreier, consultant oncologist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said a national cancer registry has been in the making for several years but data from all of the emirates has not been available.
According to Health Authority Abu Dhabi, 1,589 new cancer cases were reported in 2013. There were 390 deaths, of which 34 per cent were nationals and 66 per cent were expatriates.
Dr Dreier also expressed concerns that the target of reduce deaths by 25 per cent set by the ministry is too high.
“We will reduce the mortality if we continue on the awareness campaigns and getting patients involved, but reducing cancer mortality rates by 25 per cent is very optimistic.
“We are diagnosing more cancers but fewer people are dying because of better treatment options,”
He added doctors are now switching from chemotherapy to more targeted options like immunotherapy.
However, doctors still face problems when it comes to getting clearance from insurance companies for cancer treatment as some medications are not covered by health plans, meaning patients have to pay themselves or rely on handouts.
“We need a lot of charity involvement to get the patient the right treatment,” said Dr Dreier.
Updated: February 22, 2017 04:00 AM