UAE: One in every 8 women can suffer from breast cancer, regular self-examination is the best way to fight the disease

Symptoms include a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit, abnormal changes in breast or nipple colour, shape or size, and unusual nipple discharge


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 13 Oct 2022, 8:28 PM

Last updated: Sat 15 Oct 2022, 5:16 PM

Being an advocate for yourself and reiterating the importance of regular self-examination for early detection of breast cancer was the collective urge of doctors who gathered during a pan UAE breast cancer awareness initiative on Thursday.

October is recognised as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the country, and experts at the ‘Pink Warriors’ event that was held at Shangri-la Dubai, insisted on early screening to prevent morbidity.

Dr Amal Hassan Abdelaziz –Specialist, Clinical Lecturer and Chair of OBS & Gynaecology, Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman said, “Early detection is the way forward to prevent having morbidity and to eliminate it before it becomes cancer. Which means that it is detected while it hasn't advanced beyond a few cells in the breast, and where one can continue on for life, and survive. But still, at this point, the person can have the risk of recurrent cancer, so they have to go for screening."

One in every eight women can suffer from breast cancer. Though the disease peaks at the ages of 40 or 50, people older than that can also suffer from it. "At the age of 40 and 50, these cancers are more active, because people go through menopause, and it is around the perimenopause time where we have more oestrogen. During this time, people also have other things like bleeding. At this time, when the hormones go off a little bit, start getting more oestrogen. This will affect ageing, having been subjected to a lot of things that could cause mutations. During this time a lot of things look different. Our skin looks different. Every cell looks different. So, these are the factors,” Dr Abdelaziz added.

Breast cancer symptoms include a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit, abnormal changes in breast or nipple colour, shape or size, and unusual nipple discharge.

Dr Verushka Mansukhani, Specialist General Surgeon, Prime Hospital explains how the cancer is spreading to the younger age groups as well.

The eating habits of people are shifting these days, say medics. There's a rampant use of hormones and due to pollution, people are getting exposed to different kinds of chemicals.

"This is the only type of cancer where we say, after a patient is diagnosed with it, it is more systemic and it has spread somewhere. Patients are always called survivors. They've never seen a permanent cure as, the cancer can come back at any age after 20 or 25 years. There is no absolute cure, and the incidence has increased a lot. So that's why we have so many programmes with the help of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) that we do a lot of screening programmes.

"Screenings are done to pick up the asymptomatic, with no symptoms or pre-cancerous tumours, which can go on without any symptoms. So that's where we can help our patient, find them at a stage zero instead of finding them when they start having breast cancer. Cancer has started among younger people as well. The youngest patient at Prime Hospital is 21 years old. So, we see the shift from the older generation to a younger generation and more aggressive,” adds Mansukhani.

Healthcare professionals underline that stories of cancer survivors should be brought to the fore as it resonates more with people.

Kate Hoffman RN MSc – Group Chief Nursing Officer, NMC Healthcare Ltd, says, “It is really important that we listen to the voice of the survivor. We love stories. I've spoken to many, women and some men who suffered from cancer. When you hear stories about their colleagues’, friends’ and even strangers’ diagnosis, it really engages with them. And it's not just about ordinary people. It's about the media covering stories of high-profile people. Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had her breast removed because she had high risk genetics. And that's incredible because she's a beautiful woman. She makes her living out of the way she knows that she made a big step under choice to reduce the risk of her getting cancer. So, stories that are really important to the community because it tells the whole story of cancer, successful diagnosis and treatment, to those patients who die.”

She adds, “So UAE is making it easy for them to find good clinicians wherever we go. Making it easy to find one stop clinics and the Pink Caravan that's going around Dubai and Sharjah. There is a lot of stuff in the community.”

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