Abu Dhabi, UAE: Women with breast cancer are being diagnosed at a much earlier stage compared to five years ago giving them a better chance of survival, new figures have shown.
In 2007, 64 per cent of all breast cancer cases in Abu Dhabi were diagnosed at a late stage but by 2012 this figure had plunged to just 16 per cent, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) revealed yesterday (MON) as it launched its annual breast cancer awareness campaign as part of the authority’s Cancer Wave health initiative.
“We are really thrilled. It is a great achievement and we are working on maintaining this rate,” said Jalaa Taher, manager of non-communicable diseases at the authority.
“Early detection equals saved lives. If you detect it early and get treatment early it means you can survive the diagnosis of breast cancer.”
Breast cancer has four stages of severity defined by the prevalence and size of the lymph nodes and tumours. If caught in stage one, the chance of survival is between 95 and 100 per cent.
Breast cancer deaths among Emiratis have also fallen by 55 per cent over the last five years, said Dr Taher.
Despite the achievements, breast cancer still remains the most common form of cancer in Abu Dhabi and accounted for 22 per cent of all new cancer cases in the emirate last year and 41 per cent of cancer cases among women.
Worldwide, one women is diagnosed with breast cancer every 24 seconds and one woman dies of breast cancer every 68 seconds, said Dr Taher.
“These are alarming figures,” she said. “It’s a global issue and also a local issue.”.
Last year there were 54 breast cancer deaths in Abu Dhabi. The youngest person to be diagnosed with the disease, which is the second biggest killer among women after cardiovascular disease, was aged just 24, whilst 50 per cent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer were aged between 49 and 54.
The authority launched its Cancer Wave health initiative last week. The six-month campaign aims to raise awareness of the four most common cancers – breast, colorectal, lung and cervical.
The first phase of the campaign is focusing on breast cancer to tie in with Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is marked worldwide every October.
The HAAD campaign aims to highlight the importance of regular screening and self-examinations.
From the age of 20, women should carry out monthly self-examinations and visit a GP every three years. After the age of 40, woman should have a mammogram every two years.
“The main message is to do regular screening because regular screening saves lives,” said Dr Taher, who added that HAAD aims to get 20,0000 women screened for breast cancer every year.
“We encourage women who discover any symptoms to not to take it easily. Do not consult friends, go straight to your physician.”
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include lumps, unusual swelling and a change in the size and shape of the breast.
“Women play vital roles in society,” said Dr Taher. “They are mothers, educators, workers, leaders and motivators. They thus deserve our best efforts to ensure their good health and safety.
“Through our campaign we aim to educate the public on important facts and figures as well as the causes, detection and treatment of breast cancer and encourage them to adapt habits that benefit not only those afflicted with the condition but their families and caregivers as well.”
The campaign will raise awareness of preventative lifestyle measures women can take to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
“We know there is some risk factors; late menopause, taking hormones, such as birth control, for a long time, alcohol and smoking,” said Dr Taher. “Reducing these risk factors lowers the chance of breast cancer.”
To book screenings and mammograms, HAAD has created a special booking tool on its cancer awareness website at www.haad.ae/simplycheck. The tool provides a database of healthcare facilities in the emirate with various screening options. Alternatively, phone 800 555 for more information.
Activities during the breast cancer awareness camapign will include a Walkathon at Zayed Sports City on October 25, a Pink Polo match on November 8 and a charity fashion show at Marina Mall on November 18.
© The NationalOct 2013