By Elsa Baxter
Advanced breast cancer affects 80% of women diagnosed in Dubai, hospital data shows.
Eight out of 10 women who attend Dubai’s only breast cancer clinic are diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease, official figures have shown.
Doctors at Dubai Hospital’s department of medical oncology stressed the importance of better screening programmes to help catch cancer in its early stages.
They said that while advanced cancers are treatable, the later a tumour is detected the worse a patient’s survival rate is.
Healthcare professionals are currently putting together a breast cancer awareness campaign to educate women about the killer disease.
According to hospital data about 60 percent of women who attended the clinic were diagnosed with breast cancer, of which 80 percent have stage two or three cancer.
This is in stark contrast to countries with comprehensive screening programmes, said Dr Shaheenah Dawood, a senior specialist registrar and UAE national.
“The earlier you are caught, in terms of staging the disease, the better the outcome,” she said.
“In countries with screening programmes the majority of women present with pre-invasive disease, or stage one. But here most of the women present with advanced stage disease, which is still curable, but has a poorer overall prognosis compared with earlier stage disease.”
Many Arab women fail to seek medical advice for breast lumps because of a widespread cultural fear of cancer and embarrassment in revealing intimate medical problems to male relatives, Dr Dawood said.
“In the Arabic population, the word cancer is taboo, and there is not enough awareness in the society as a whole of the disease. But, that attitude is changing among the younger generation,” she explained.
“This year we want to promote and educate women about breast self-examination, and to encourage women to come to the clinic as soon as they have a problem, so that they can get maximum benefit from some of the very effective treatments now available,” she added.
Guidelines for screening, which will include mammography and genetic testing for high-risk patients, are currently being developed by the hospital’s multi-disciplinary Breast Cancer Awareness Committee, which was established in May this year.