Women in UAE Reluctant to Screen for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a challenging problem globally as well as in UAE, which further aggravates because of lack of awareness about the disease. Large percentage of women does not have adequate knowledge about self-examination exercises. Even among the ones, who have an idea of the exercise, often avoid due to the psychological fear of finding out something.

At Research Konnection, we are committed towards conducting some genuine research about the cause, prevention and cure of the disease. Last year we did conduct an online survey among the women in UAE, wherein it was concluded that a majority of women avoid screening due to either lack of knowledge, not being recommended and/or expensive nature of the test.

Likewise, this year the focus was towards conducting interviews with Oncologists and Gynecologists to capture the key insights pertaining to the disease. The exercise has been conducted in collaboration with Zulekha Hospital; a UAE based medical hospital chain.

Our discussions with Dr. Betty John, Gynecology Consultant with Zulekha Hospital revealed that neither women in UAE have got sufficient information about breast cancer nor do they opt for screening very often. On being asked about the prime reasons behind it, Dr. Betty John, replied that there are multitudes of factors responsible such as lack of awareness, procrastination and negligence along with the general perception that high cost will be involved in the overall process.

Similarly, in spite of availability of free screening at many health clinics, which is covered under the health insurance policy, many women avoid it, due to lack of knowledge. It is advisable that post-age 20, the screening exercise should be done once in three years and in case of post-age 40, it has to be done once every year. It is important to note that early detection is the biggest weapon in fighting against the deadly disease and hence in this regard, generating more awareness about the disease through various means such as observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month during October is a key step.

Research findings indicate at different level individuals and organizations in UAE are contributing towards fighting for the cause. Pink Caravan, a part of Friends of Cancer Patient Organization, is bringing together all the Breast Cancer related NGOs to unify efforts towards generating more awareness about the disease among the residents in the UAE.

Hospitals such as Well Being Clinic is offering free breast examination during the month of October and offering 50% discount on Mammogram. Similarly, Mediclinic is also offering discounted screening during the month of October in UAE.

Likewise, many spas and beauty salons in UAE are actively participating in the crusade against the disease by offering body and facial treatments and products, proceeds from which are directly donated as charities for Breast Cancer. Similarly some of them are selling hampers, proceeds from which will be used for the screening of their staffs.

BurJuman is conducting its “Safe and Sound” campaign in which through a series of activities and events, awareness about the disease is provided, thereby empowering women for the fight against the disease. The campaign which is being conducted since 1997, also involves a walkathon in which thousands of residents participate. Like Dubai, in neighboring Abu Dhabi, 971 women conducted simultaneous self examination for breast cancer, which is a gunnies book of world record in itself.

Dr. Betty as well as some medical experts also replied that events such as dedicating October as Breast Cancer awareness month are really beneficial as it helps in spreading a lot of fruitful information among the public. Nevertheless, it is also important that such events and awareness programs should take place round the clock, throughout the year. Only then the effective information circulation will take place and the battle against the deadly menace can solidify. Also, it is recommended that general physicians should play a more constructive role by encouraging and recommending patients to opt for screening procedure.

It is important that not only October should be dedicated as Breast Cancer Awareness month but as a society, we all should contribute at our level best to keep the battle rolling throughout the year and generate as much awareness and positive energy we can to fight against the disease. The key mantra is more awareness and early detection, which can save many lives claws of death.  Interestingly we had discussions with some with some of our last year’s participants and it appears that most of them have pledged to undertake screenings. It’s definitely a difficult but collectively we are one step up and this is a positive sign.

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