x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Nurses to be trained to detect breast cancer

Nursing staff at Dubai Hospital and its related clinics are to be trained in breast cancer detection and education.

DUBAI // Nursing staff at Dubai Hospital and its related clinics are to be trained in breast cancer detection and education in the run-up to a year-long campaign that will be launched in October. About 100 staff will begin training courses next month aimed at helping them teach women how to self-examine and realise the importance of early detection. According to hospital figures, around 80 per cent of cases are diagnosed in the late stages, which sharply reduces the chance of being cured.

In contrast, three out of five women in the US are diagnosed in the early stages, giving them a 98 per cent chance of surviving for at least another five years. The hospital launched a comprehensive screening campaign this month as part of a wider push to improve survival rates across the country. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, according to the National Cancer Registry.

Wendy Hewitt-Sayer, director of the 950-strong nursing section at Dubai Hospital, said one of the biggest hurdles was changing the culture surrounding this particular type of cancer. "There is not a huge amount of awareness of breast cancer in the country as a whole, especially how to do breast self-examination," she said. "However, with the training of nurses we hope to facilitate a change in that culture. Nurses are key to raising awareness because they are there at the bedside all the time, they are there at every stage of a person's life, in illness and in health."

The nurses will be taught how to perform and teach self-examination, as well as learning about diagnosis and treatment, and the common signs and symptoms of the disease. Some of the trained staff will also take part in informal discussions, seminars and lectures to help educate the rest of the 9,000 Dubai Health Authority employees. "Nurses will educate female in-patients as part of their general nursing care," said Ms Hewitt-Sayer. "But we will also look for opportunities to educate well women, such as those using our maternity services, mothers accompanying their children, and women attending outpatients and the emergency room.

"Women who are having a baby here are often accompanied by their mothers, sisters, daughters and maids, and so we will also include them in our education on breast awareness." Training will be organised by the international charity Vital Voices, which is spearheaded by the Susan Komen charity in the US. Nasseem Rouhani, an Emirati and master trainer at Vital Voices, said the "negative cultural element" was the main focus of much of the training.

"A lot of the time the response to breast cancer is negative," she said. "People think it is a death sentence and that's something we try to eliminate to break the cultural divide." When the second phase of the campaign begins in October - which is global Breast Cancer Awareness month - trained staff will start giving lectures to local groups of women, school teachers, university students and employees of large companies.

Dr Shaheenah Dawood, a senior specialist registrar in oncology and head of the campaign, said she hoped to make women not only more self-aware but also "comfortable enough to ask questions" on any breast-related problem. munderwood@thenational.ae