October is known as breast cancer awareness month worldwide, and healthcare officials and cancer survivors often spend this time educating others about the importance of detection and treatment.
Earlier this year, Emma Walsh, a program manager at Qatar’s National Cancer Program, said that sometimes, people in Qatar may suspect they have cancer, but only seek treatment once it has hit later stages:
“There is a natural fear attached to the stigma – just saying the word ‘cancer’ has negative connotations … It’s stronger in the Qatari community… (where) we’ve seen a greater sense of alienation of people with cancer, and a perception that they are somehow weaker.”
In honor of the month, and in hopes of helping others protect themselves from illness, here are five things women in Qatar should know about breast cancer:
1. Prevention means taking care of yourself
On its website, the Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) advises women to improve their health by getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night, exercising regularly, managing stress, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.
Other tips include breast-feeding if possible, which reduces the risk of breast cancer.
2. Testing is crucial
In a recently released statement, Dr. Ambika Anand, senior consultant breast surgeon at Hamad General Hospital, said:
“Early detection of breast cancer can ensure patients get the best possible outcomes from their treatment. This is why it is important that women are breast aware, which means understanding what is normal for their body and, if they notice anything unusual or something they are concerned about, to seek professional medical advice immediately.
It is also recommended in Qatar that women over the age of 40 have regular mammograms to ensure any cancers are detected as early as possible.”
Chris Killey, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 64 years old in Qatar, couldn’t agree more. She told Doha News that early detection saved her life:
“Check yourself, check yourself, check yourself – every single week. I found my tumor early — while washing myself in the shower I noticed a lump. Don’t delay.
Breast cancer testing services are available at many private and public hospitals and clinics around Qatar, including Hamad General Hospital, Al Rumaillah Hospital and Al Amal Hospital (Hamad’s cancer hospital).
3. Understand different treatment options in Qatar
For those who are diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment will depend on how developed the cancer is, the type of breast cancer it is, whether it is the first diagnosis or recurring, the estrogen and progesterone receptor levels in the tumor tissue as well as the woman’s age and general health, according to QCS.
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy are some of the options available to breast cancer patients here.
According to Killey, who now lives back in her home country of New Zealand, HMC has “fantastic” medical services that helped her beat cancer.
“Hamad have also developed a very useful function – they have a handful of ‘coordinators.’ My assigned coordinator was a wonderful Filipina — she was my contact to coordinate all my appointments with the various medical staff, getting me all the appointments I needed for MRIs, ultrasounds, cardiac ECG, Pet Scans, blood tests, radiation, surgery — you name it.
The appointments were endless. She was also able to tell me where to go for each appointment and how to get there. That was a very useful tool.”
There is also a financial aid option in Qatar, offered through QCS. To apply, patients must fill out a form online here and attach a detailed report and letter about their health status from Hamad Medical Corp (HMC).
4. Reach out to learn more about breast cancer
To encourage women to get tested and promote the benefits of early detection, QSC has partnered with The Ritz-Carlton Doha this month to host several breast cancer-related events.
On Oct. 10, the partnership will extend to the Ladies of Harley Qatar and IAID (Academy for Dance, Music, Arts and Fitness) to host a day of talk shows and workshops to help educate residents on healthy lifestyles, prevention and early detection.
Testimonials from survivors will also take place at the event, which is from 4 to 6pm at The Ritz’s Fountain Courtyard.
5. You can help the cause
Those who want to donate to breast cancer research can do so during this month’s awareness/fundraising events.
At the Ritz-Carlton Doha, several “pink” activities are taking place — including Pilates and Zumba exercise classes, spa treatments and afternoon tea. All proceeds will go to Qatar Cancer Society.
There is also usually an annual breast cancer walk in Qatar, but details have not yet been publicized.
What advice would you add? Thoughts?