UAE: Nearly 90% of residents above the age of 40 have never undergone a colorectal screening

The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Public Health Council recommend a screening every 10 years for individuals from the age of 40

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Published: Wed 9 Mar 2022, 7:21 PM

Last updated: Wed 9 Mar 2022, 8:00 PM

Nearly 90 per cent of the UAE residents above the age of 40 years have never undergone screening for colorectal cancer before, according to a survey done by Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC).

Dr Michael Wallace, consultant, gastroenterology and hepatology and chair of department, SSMC, noted colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the UAE but can be cured if detected early.


“Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths but remains one of the easiest cancers to prevent.”

Colorectal cancer occurs when growths, known as polyps, occur on the inner lining of the colon. These polyps are often benign but can become cancerous over time. The polyps are characteristically detected through various screening methods, namely a colonoscopy.


The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Public Health Council recommend a screening every 10 years for individuals from the age of 40 and annually for a faecal immunochemical test.

About 80 per cent of colorectal cancers are found in individuals above the age of 40 years. Regular screening is encouraged for those who have a history of colorectal cancer in their families.

“If colorectal cancer is detected early, that is, before patients start showing symptoms, up to 95 per cent of cases are curable.”

Dr Michael Wallace
Dr Michael Wallace

Dr Wallace noted that the use of an innovative artificial intelligence technology, known as GI Genius, at the hospital has enhanced its ability to safely detect pre-cancerous polyps in the colon and reduce the risk of deaths by up to 50 per cent.

“We find that there are real barriers and misconceptions that prevail when it comes to screening for this cancer, which is a true challenge.”

To identify key perceptions about colorectal screening, SSMC commissioned a survey targeting the UAE residents of 40 years of age and above.

As many as 63 per cent respondents revealed that a lack of symptoms is the key reason, they would not proactively undergo screening. This is a challenge as a person with early, curable colorectal cancer doesn’t present symptoms, which is why screening is important.

Overall, 88 per cent of respondents had never undergone screening for colorectal cancer before with 77 per cent being more concerned about contracting diabetes and 35 per cent being worried about obesity.

Additionally, 55 per cent of Emirati respondents didn’t screen because of either fear of pain, fear of discovering diseases, or shame and embarrassment.

Video: @SSMCAbuDhabi - Twitter

For those who had undergone screening for colorectal cancer before, colonoscopy was listed as a main method of screening followed by computed tomography colonography, fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, and stool DNA testing.

Dr Faek El Jamali, consultant for colorectal surgery and surgical oncology at SSMC, underlined that screening should take place in the absence of any symptoms to identify polyps at an early stage.

“By the time symptoms of colon cancer develop, like blood in the stools, weight loss, worsening constipation, anemia, the test is no longer considered a screening test as we are not detecting the cancer at an early stage. Our expert team works very hard to make the screening process as private, painless and comfortable as possible for all patients.”

Dr Faek El Jamali
Dr Faek El Jamali

The hospital has a multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists who are experts in diagnosing and finding the best-advanced treatment plan for colorectal patients, including cutting edge minimally invasive techniques as well as state of the art robotic techniques.

SSMC, a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and Mayo Clinic, is marking the colorectal cancer awareness month by launching an awareness campaign theme: ‘You can prevent it. We can treat it’, emphasising the importance of screening and prevention.

From March 21 to 27, SSMC’s gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons will be stationed at a booth in the Galleria Mall, to answer patients’ questions and schedule on-the-spot appointment bookings. There will be a community outreach activation that will include awareness lectures and videos in collaboration with corporate and community stakeholders, and live social media sessions with Dr Wallace and Dr Al Jamali.

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