UAE: With the number of cancer cases on the rise, awareness programmes and initiatives that educate citizens and residents on early detection and prevention have also been increasing.
Doctors and nutritionists believe that prevention starts early on, beginning with a healthy diet and lifestyle, particularly cancers that are related to the bowel, lung or the breast.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention has recently organised a workshop which focuses on developing and formulating a national nutrition strategy in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Hussein Abdel Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics at the ministry, said that such programmes would help improve nutrition among the various age groups in the UAE.
He pointed out the importance of formulating a national strategy for nutrition, which will establish a healthier food culture within the modern society.
Carine Tanios, senior dietitian at Nutri Nutrition Centre in Abu Dhabi, agrees that a nutritional and balanced diet can protect against the risk of cancer and other leading diseases.
“A diet full of fibre, protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts and salmon and contains less salt, sugar and saturated fats is important when it comes to avoiding deadly illnesses.”
However, as with prevention, new cancer treatments are also equally crucial, stressed some UAE doctors.
Dr Norbert Dreier, consultant oncologist at Burjeel Hospital, said new treatments are currently being tested. “We are getting new cancer treatments, ones that hopefully avoid chemotherapy in certain cancer cases.
“Genetic profiling is one of these treatments that can help avoid chemotherapy. We want to get away from chemo options in some cases, particularly in young patients.”
Dr Dreier said immunotherapy had great potential as a cancer treatment. Also referred to as the biologic therapy, the treatment is designed to boost the natural defences of the body which can help fight cancer.
Substances used in immunotherapy are either created in a laboratory or by the body to restore function of one’s immune system.
“Immunotherapy will train the immune system to fight against cancer. This treatment has been trained for a number of cancers, but we are still waiting for it to be trained for breast cancer.”
Dr Mohammed Jaloudi, chairman of medical oncology department at Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, said that immunotherapy has been successful on 30 per cent of cases, including lung, bladder, kidney and lymph cancers.
The UAE is also witnessing groundbreaking treatments in colon cancer. With colon cancer being the second common cancer and second cause of cancer deaths in the country, treatments are critical.
Recently, the first laparoscopic bowel resection with D3 lymph node dissection was performed on a 35-year-old female patient at Tawam Hospital. The treatment was the first ever in the UAE and in the region.
Dr Kanankkande Kandy Zainul Aabideen, consultant paediatric oncology at Burjeel Hospital, said although cancer awareness and treatments for adults are on the rise, treatment for children suffering from cancer in the region is still behind.
“Ninety per cent of child acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is cured in the Western world. Although treatments in the Middle East have improved, they can still improve as much as the UK and Western standards.”
He pointed out that 70 per cent of children suffering from leukaemia from the cases he has seen have been cured.
“We must focus on early diagnosis and improving treatment for the kids. Cancer in children can be cured. If it is curable in the Western world, then it is curable in the region too.”
© Khaleej TimesDec 2016